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J Genet Psychol. 2011 Apr-Jun;172(2):95-120. doi: 10.1080/00221325.2010.510545.

Preschool boys' development of emotional self-regulation strategies in a sample at risk for behavior problems.

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  • 1University of Pittsburgh, USA.


Little longitudinal research has been conducted on changes in children's emotional self-regulation strategy (SRS) use after infancy, particularly for children at risk. In this study, the authors examined changes in boys' emotional SRS from toddlerhood through preschool. Repeated observational assessments using delay of gratification tasks at ages 2, 3, and 4 years were examined with both variable- and person-oriented analyses in a low-income sample of boys (N = 117) at risk for early problem behavior. Results were consistent with theory on emotional SRS development in young children. Children initially used more emotion-focused SRS (e.g., comfort seeking) and transitioned to greater use of planful SRS (e.g., distraction) by 4 years of age. Person-oriented analysis using trajectory analysis found similar patterns from 2 to 4 years, with small groups of boys showing delayed movement away from emotion-focused strategies or delay in the onset of regular use of distraction. The results provide a foundation for future researchers to examine the development of SRS in low-income young children.

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