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.
Professor Dee commented on what their study found in delaying kindergarten for a year.
“We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73 percent for an average child at age 11, 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.”
Sievertsen and Dee’s research offers new evidence on mental health aspects that are instrumental in predicting educational outcomes for children.
The mental health traits behind Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are determined by measuring an individual’s hyperactivity and inattention, which can effectively reveal how well he or she is capable of managing self-control or self-regulation. A higher level of self-regulation describes a person’s ability to control impulses and adjust his or her behavior in attaining goals — normally linked to a student’s achievement.
The generally accepted theory is that young children and teenagers who are able to stay focused, sit still, and pay attention longer, are prone to do much better in school.
Dee’s study found a similar link when comparing seven-year-old children attending the same schools. These children showed that the students who had lower inattention-hyperactivity ratings had higher school assessment scores.
Additional findings of this recent study on delaying kindergarten found a significant improvement of mental health with regard to hyperactivity and inattention for both boys and girls.
Professor Dee says the improvement is added evidence in delaying entry into kindergarten.
“This is some of the most convincing evidence we’ve seen to support what parents and policymakers have already been doing – choosing to delay kindergarten entry.”
In addition to improved mental health of children who are not enrolled in kindergarten until age six, instead of age five, emotional and social skills show improvement, as well.
The Stanford study shows the percentage of children entering kindergarten at age six instead of age five has progressively increased to about 20 percent in the United States. A portion of this new trend is due to school policy changes; however, researchers suggest that most of the increase can be attributed to academic redshirting– a principle used for postponing entrance into kindergarten in order to allow extra time for socio-emotional, intellectual, or physical growth.
Many parents are opting to delay kindergarten enrollment for a year in the hope of giving their children a leg up in maturity and other social emotional skills.
Professor Dee noted that a decision about schooling involves a variety of factors and this study addresses one area. He suggests conversations about when to enroll a child in kindergarten should include both parents and teachers.
The study also found similar findings when compared with other research showing how prolonged playing in early childhood improves a child’s mental health developmental.
Dee said he hopes his research will lead to new education theories and practices, in addition to stimulating a broader examination on how kindergarten is taught – pointing more toward play rather than structured academics.
“It’s not just a question of when do you start kindergarten, but what do you do in those kindergarten classes? If you make kindergarten the new first grade, then parents may sensibly decide to delay entry. If kindergarten is not the new first grade, then parents may not delay children’s entries as much.”
This recent study on postponing kindergarten enrollment was supported in part with a grant from The Danish Council for Strategic Research.[Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images]