The Development of Self-Regulation Across Early Childhood

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Abstract

The development of early childhood self-regulation is often considered an early life marker for later life successes. Yet little longitudinal research has evaluated whether there are different trajectories of self-regulation development across children. This study investigates the development of behavioral self-regulation between the ages of 3 and 7 years, with a direct focus on possible heterogeneity in the developmental trajectories, and a set of potential indicators that distinguish unique behavioral self-regulation trajectories. Across 3 diverse samples, 1,386 children were assessed on behavioral self-regulation from preschool through first grade. Results indicated that majority of children develop self-regulation rapidly during early childhood, and that children follow 3 distinct developmental patterns of growth. These 3 trajectories were distinguishable based on timing of rapid gains, as well as child gender, early language skills, and maternal education levels. Findings highlight early developmental differences in how self-regulation unfolds, with implications for offering individualized support across children.

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