Longitudinal Predictors of Self-Regulation at School Entry: Findings from the All Our Families Cohort

Children (Basel). 2020 Oct 16;7(10):186. doi: 10.3390/children7100186.


Self-regulation is the ability to manage emotions, modulate behaviors, and focus attention. This critical skill begins to develop in infancy, improves substantially in early childhood and continues through adolescence, and has been linked to long-term health and well-being. The objectives of this study were to determine risk factors and moderators associated with the three elements of self-regulation (i.e., inattention, emotional control, or behavioral control) as well as overall self-regulation, among children at age 5. Participants were mother-child dyads from the All Our Families study (n = 1644). Self-regulation was assessed at age 5. Risk factors included income, maternal mental health, child sex, and screen time, and potential moderation by parenting and childcare. Adjusted odds ratios of children being at risk for poor self were estimated using multivariable logistic regression. Twenty-one percent of children had poor self-regulation skills. Risk factors for poor self-regulation included lower income, maternal mental health difficulties, and male sex. Childcare and poor parenting did not moderate these associations and hostile and ineffective parenting was independently associated with poor self-regulation. Excess screen time (>1 h per day) was associated with poor self-regulation. Self-regulation involves a complex and overlapping set of skills and risk factors that operate differently on different elements. Parenting and participation in childcare do not appear to moderate the associations between lower income, maternal mental health, male sex, and screen time with child self-regulation.

Keywords: child behavior; child development; longitudinal cohort; parenting; screen time; self-regulation.