"Is the Duration or Timing of Special Education Related to Social-Emotional Maladjustment in Middle School?"
SRCD 2019 Biennial Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Title: Is the Duration or Timing of Special Education Related to Social-Emotional Maladjustment in Middle School? (Poster)
Session: Education, Schooling
Authors: Adrienne Woods, Paul Morgan, George Farkas
Abstract: Children with disabilities (CWD) receiving special education services have been reported to more frequently experience social-emotional maladjustment, which may be explained by two competing hypotheses. The first is that receiving special education services results in stigma associated with disability labeling, attending segregated special education classrooms, and/or receiving ineffective or inappropriate special education services. Second, and conversely, lower social-emotional adjustment results from previously experiencing severe academic and/or behavioral difficulties that, independently of special education service receipt, make social-emotional maladjustment more likely. Yet few studies have directly addressed social-emotional outcomes for CWD while also controlling for academic or behavioral functioning. To this end, we investigated the following research questions in an analytical sample of CWD who received special education services at least once between Kindergarten and 8th grade. (1) Are CWD who receive special education services for a greater length of time more likely to display poorer social-emotional adjustment? and (2) Is the timing of special education service receipt associated with an increased risk of poorer social-emotional adjustment?
We analyzed data from the ECLS-K:1998, a nationally representative dataset in which comprehensive information about schooling experiences was collected in Kindergarten, 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade. We used measures of student-reported 8th grade social-emotional well-being, including perceptions of competence and interest in school subjects, competence and popularity with peers, reported problem behaviors, and expected educational attainment. Novelly, our sample was comprised of CWD who received special education services at least once during K-8. We conducted a multinomial propensity matching analysis, in which we statistically matched students on a host of demographic, achievement, and behavioral characteristics who either (1) received “more” or “less” special education over time (e.g., experienced differing durations of service receipt; hereafter, “dosage”), and (2) who received services earlier or later in schooling. Data were imputed into 50 datasets of n = 1,960.
Preliminary results suggest that receiving a longer duration of special education services and/or receiving later special education services negatively affects locus of self-control. After correcting for multiple comparisons, neither dosage nor timing significantly impacted academic competencies, internalizing problems, self-concept, educational attainment expectations, school belonging, or peer relationships. However, students who received only one wave of special education services reported feeling significantly more in control of their life in 8th grade (ES = .17-.50; Table 1), while conversely, students who received services throughout the duration of K-8 schooling (5 waves) reported feeling less in control than students who received any other dosage (1-4 waves; ES = .27-.50). Students who received services in 8th grade also reported lower feelings of control relative to students who last received services in any other grade K-5 (ES = .30-.37; Table 2). Thus, receiving a longer duration of services and/or receiving them in 8th grade may negatively affect feelings of control over one’s life. Particularly because this finding coincides with well-documented social-emotional maladjustment during middle school, further research is needed to assess how receiving services at this crucial timepoint affects long-term outcomes.