The relations of regulation and emotionality to children's externalizing and internalizing problem behavior

Child Dev. 2001 Jul-Aug;72(4):1112-34. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00337.


The purpose of this study was to examine the relation of different types of negative emotion and regulation and control to 55- to 97-month-olds' internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors. Parents and teachers provided information on children's (N = 214) adjustment, dispositional regulation and control, and emotion, and children's regulation was observed during several behavioral tasks. Internalizing was defined in two ways: as social withdrawal (to avoid overlap of items with measures of emotionality) or, more broadly, as anxiety, depression, and psychosomatic complaints. In general, children with externalizing problems, compared with children with internalizing problems and nondisordered children, were more prone to anger, impulsivity, and low regulation. Children with internalizing symptoms were prone to sadness, low attentional regulation, and low impulsivity. Relations between internalizing problems and emotionality were more frequent when the entire internalizing scale was used. Findings suggest that emotion and regulation are associated with adjustment in systematic ways and that there is an important difference between effortful control and less voluntary modes of control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Personality Assessment
  • Temperament