in the areas of attention and articulation they were identified at twice the rate. Mother’s education has a substantial impact on activity level, attention, and articulation ratings, as does single-parent status and welfare receipt. English speakers were identified with all characteristics more often than non-English speakers. Reported attention and activity level vary substantially by race, with black, American Indian, and mixed race children identified considerably more often than other race or ethnic groups. There were small differences in coordination and articulation by race, with black, Hispanic, Asian, and mixed race children identified less often with coordination problems than other races.


While development occurs in a similar fashion for all children, developmental differences are the inevitable result of individual genetic and experiential variations and differing cultural and social contexts. In the past several decades, variability has been taken more seriously by social scientists who study children. From that research base we are learning ever more about the magnitude and sources of variation among children.

Chapter 2 suggested that development is fostered when a child is engaged in activities (both cognitive and social) that are at an appropriate level of difficulty: challenging, but within the reach of the child’s competence. We suggested further that development is very much dependent on context, and that an adult who is responsive to the child’s level of social, emotional, and cognitive development is a key feature of a supportive context. The research reviewed in this chapter suggests the variability of competencies in children by the end of the preschool years. In both cognitive and social skills, and in the physical and motor development that support those skills, young children vary enormously.

Biology’s contribution to temperament, learning style, and motor facility clearly influences children’s developmental pathways. To effectively foster growth in children with very different temperaments, learning styles, activity levels, and abilities to attend will require different types of interaction and opportunities to learn.

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