From Higher Order Thinking to Higher Order Behavior: Exploring the Relationship Between Early Cognitive Skills and Social Competence in Black Boys

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This study examines the relations of higher order (i.e., abstract) thinking (HOT) skills to specific domains of social competence in Black boys (n = 108) attending publicly sponsored prekindergarten (pre-K) programs. Data for the study were collected as part of the National Center for Early Development and Learning (NCEDL) Multi-State Study, a national, longitudinal study examining the quality and outcomes in a representative sample of publicly sponsored pre-K programs in six states (N = 240). Pre-K and kindergarten teachers rated randomly selected children on measures of abstract thinking, self-regulation, and social functioning at the beginning and end of each school year. Applying structural equation modeling, compared with earlier time points, HOT measured in the fall of kindergarten significantly predicted each of the domains of social competence in the spring of kindergarten, with the exception of peer social skills, while controlling for general cognitive ability. Results suggest that early intervention to improve HOT may be an effective and more focused approach to address concerns about Black boys’ early social competencies in specific domains and potentially reduce the risk of later social difficulties.

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