European Journal of Psychology of Education

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 417–438 | Cite as

Links between socio-emotional skills, behavior, mathematics and literacy performance of preschool children in Serbia

  • Gabrijela AleksićEmail author
  • Christine Merrell
  • Dieter Ferring
  • Peter Tymms
  • Jasmina Klemenović


Young children’s socio-emotional skills are important for understanding their own and others’ behaviors and interactions. No study in Serbia has investigated this before. In this study, we explored the links between early socio-emotional skills, behavior, and mathematics and literacy performance of preschool children in Serbia over time. Children (N = 159; 51% of girls) aged 5–8 were rated by the teachers on their socio-emotional skills and behavior, and their mathematics and literacy assessed at three time points over 14 months, twice in preschool and once at entry to school. At time 3, when children entered school, their socio-emotional skills and behavior were associated with gender, mathematics at time 1, and their socio-emotional and behavior ratings at time 2, controlling for maternal education and literacy at time 1. Mathematics at time 3 was associated with mathematics at time 2, controlling for gender, maternal education, literacy, and behavior at time 1. No socio-emotional skills or specific behavior were significant for mathematics. Literacy at time 3 was associated with mathematics and social skills at time 1, and literacy at time 2, controlling for gender and maternal education. At all three times, girls were rated more positively than boys in socio-emotional skills and behavior, except for adjustment to school setting where there were no differences. This study offers the first insight into the links between socio-emotional skills, behavior, and mathematics and literacy performance of preschool children in Serbia which will inform the development and evaluation of interventions. Attrition of the sample limits the findings.


Socio-emotional skills Behavior Mathematics Preschool Serbia 



The authors would like to thank Romain Martin for the co-supervision of the doctoral dissertation of the first author, Mirjana Poptešin and Jelena Vukičević for their help in translating the tests, Lucija Andre for administering the test in Serbia, and all the parents, teachers, and children who participated in the study.


This research was supported by the Fond National de la Recherche, Luxembourg, as a doctoral dissertation of the first author. My coauthors and I do not have any interests that might be influencing the research. This manuscript has not been published or submitted for publishing elsewhere.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethics approval

All procedures in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Luxembourg and University of Novi Sad and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study, formal consent is not required. This is a retrospective study.


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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa, Portugal and Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Unit INSIDEUniversity of Luxembourg, Maison des Sciences SocialesEsch-sur-AlzetteLuxembourg
  2. 2.Centre for Evaluation and MonitoringDurham University, Ushaw CollegeDurhamUK
  3. 3.School of EducationDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  4. 4.Department of PedagogyUniversity of Novi SadNovi SadSerbia

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