Study finds improved self-regulation in kindergartners who wait a year to enroll

Study finds improved self-regulation in kindergartners who wait a year to enroll
October 7, 2015
By May Wong
The new Stanford study found improved self-regulation in children who delayed kindergarten by a year. (Photo credit: Christopher Futcher/iStock)
A new research paper co-authored by Professor Thomas Dee finds strong evidence of mental health benefits in delaying kindergarten.
A new study on the mental health effects of kindergarten enrollment ages found strong evidence that a one-year delay dramatically improves a child’s self-regulation abilities even into later childhood.
According to the study co-authored by Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Thomas Dee, children who started kindergarten a year later showed significantly lower levels of inattention and hyperactivity, which are jointly considered a key indicator of self regulation. The beneficial result was found to persist even at age 11.
“We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73 percent for an average child at age 11,” Dee said, “and it virtually eliminated the probability that an average child at that age would have an ‘abnormal,’ or higher-than-normal rating for the inattentive-hyperactive behavioral measure.”
Findings from the study, which Dee co-authored with Hans Henrik Sievertsen of the Danish National Centre for Social Research, could help parents in the recurring debate over the pros and cons of a later school entry.
Though many children in developed countries now start their formal schooling at an older age, a growing body of empirical studies could neither conclusively point to improved test scores nor higher incomes from a delayed kindergarten entry, the study stated.
Dee and Sievertsen’s research, however, provides new evidence instead on mental health aspects that are predictors of educational outcomes.
In the psychology realm, the measure of inattention and hyperactivity – the mental health traits behind Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – effectively reflects the concept of self regulation. A higher level of self regulation, which describes a person’s ability to control impulses and modulate behavior in attaining goals, is commonly linked to student achievement.
Staying focused, faring better
The underlying theory is that youngsters and teens who can stay focused, sit still and pay attention longer, fare better in school.

Delaying kindergarten enrollment for one year shows significant mental health benefits for children, according to a recent study. Researchers found that a one-year delay in enrolling a child in kindergarten dramatically reduces inattention and hyperactivity at age seven.
Researchers found that children who were held back from kindergarten for as little as one year showed a 73 percent reduction in inattentiveness and hyperactivity compared to children sent the year earlier, according to this new study on kindergarten and mental health.
Stanford’s Graduate School of Education offered a news release about the new study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research titled, The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health.
Findings from the study, which Professor Thomas S. Dee co-authored with Hans Henrik Sievertsen of the Danish National Center for Social Research, could help parents in viewing the pros and cons of postponing enrolling their child in kindergarten up to a year later.

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