3 Ways "Redshirting" Your Child Could Negatively Affect Them, According To Science

I grew up in Canton, Ohio. In my hometown, football is life and some parents will do anything to assure their children a spot on the high school team. Because of this, many parents choose to redshirt their kids in kindergarten, hoping they'll be bigger freshman and slide right into the varsity squad. But all over the country parents choose to hold their children back for all sorts of reasons, ranging from academic excellence to emotional maturity. It seems simple, but it turns out that there are some ways that holding back your child in school could affect them adversely.

When you're trying to decide whether to hold your child back in a grade, you're going to be evaluating all of the potential outcomes, and scrutinizing your own feelings and reasons for it as well. It might be that your child is struggling, and you want to provide them with every possible tool to succeed and this seems like the best strategy. It may be that you want your child to have an academic edge come high school, so you think you should give them a head start when they're little. These are valid reasons, and science backs some of them up, but some researchers argue that it is both unnecessary and ineffective when it comes to the heart of the issue at hand.


Their Career Might Be Stunted

I spoke with Ed.D. candidate Sherry Baker of Queens, New York and she tells Romper that "overall, redshirting isn't a good thing, and it's not a bad thing, and ultimately it's easy to argue for either given the right circumstances. I recently read an article that examined Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, about redshirting hockey players." She says they used his framework and evaluated the full career potential of players who ended up starting their careers later because they were in primary school later. "They found that it could potentially shorten the duration of their career, even if they performed better in the beginning." This transferred to the achievement of higher education, too. "The research found that the advantages of holding your child back eventually dissolve and you wind up with a net loss of income."


It Could Delay A Diagnosis In Special Needs Children

Baker says that there's a crucial aspect of early childhood education that many people miss — evaluating your child's needs, gifts, and potential issues in a structured environment. She tells Romper, "If you wait to put your child into kindergarten until age 6, you're potentially delaying early intervention in diagnosing issues like ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and similar struggles." Baker says that many of these conditions aren't easily noticed when your child is at home, playing around and behaving as kids do. "It isn't until your child gets to school, and we realize they're struggling to read or write, or recognize numbers in order, that we can get them help, and holding them back before they get to school means that we don't get them help until later."

The literature bears this out. Researchers have written that "early intervention is paramount for children with disabilities, and that a delay of diagnosis can have lasting consequences."


They Might Be More Likely To Dropout

There was incredibly compelling work done by researchers published by the American Economic Journal that assessed the age of students when they entered kindergarten, and the likelihood that they would eventually leave school. The goal of the study was to evaluate crime among youths and ways to mitigate it, and they found that there is a corollary between students who enter school later — either by date of cutoff or redshirting — and dropping out.

The researchers wrote, "youths born just after the school-entry eligibility cut date (and hence relatively old for their grade) perform better academically than their younger classmates but are more likely to drop out before receiving their high school diplomas. The elevated dropout rate is likely due to the fact that the old-for-grade youths have a longer window of time during which they are legally entitled to drop out. Thus, there appear to be two potentially opposing human-capital mechanisms in the delayed-entry 'experiment.'"

It's all a lot to think about, but in the end, it's a personal choice, and Baker says that it's important to note that these studies are looking at correlation, not causation, and every student is unique. There are valid arguments for both sides, and it's up to you as the parent to determine what's best for your child.