British Journal of Educational Psychology

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Volume 74 Issue 3 (September 2004), Pages 323-496

Predictors of writing competence in 4‐ to 7‐year‐old children (pages 461-483)

Background: This longitudinal study sought to improve understanding of the factors at home and school that influence children's attainment and progress in writing between the ages of 4 and 7 years.

Aims: (i) To investigate the relationship between home variables and writing development in preschool children; (ii) to determine associations between child characteristics and writing development (iii) to conduct an analysis of the areas of continuity and discontinuity between variables at home and at school, and influences on subsequent writing development.

Sample: Sixty children attending four urban primary schools participated in this study.

Method: Semi‐structured interviews, questionnaires, observation schedules and standardized assessments were used. Writing samples were collected each term. Associations between measures and continuity over time were assessed using multiple regression analysis.

Results: Preschool variables that were found to be significantly associated with writing proficiency at school entry included mother's educational level, family size, parental assessment of writing and a measure of home writing. Child characteristics, skills and competencies were measured at school entry and those found to be significantly associated with writing at 7 years included season of birth, vocabulary score, pre‐reading skills, handwriting and proficiency in writing name. The only preschool variable that maintained its significant relationship to writing at 7 years was home writing. Teacher assessments of pupil attitudes to writing were consistently found to be significantly associated with writing competence.

Conclusions: This comprehensive study explored the complex interaction of cognitive, affective and contextual processes involved in learning to write, and identified specific features of successful writers. Results are discussed in relation to educational policy and practice issues.

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