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Dev Psychol. 2009 Jul;45(4):988-1008. doi: 10.1037/a0016213.

Longitudinal relations of children's effortful control, impulsivity, and negative emotionality to their externalizing, internalizing, and co-occurring behavior problems.

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Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1104, USA.


The purpose of the study was to examine the relations of effortful control (EC), impulsivity, and negative emotionality to at least borderline clinical levels of symptoms and change in maladjustment over four years. Children's (N = 214; 77% European American; M age = 73 months) externalizing and internalizing symptoms were rated by parents and teachers at 3 times, 2 years apart (T1, T2, and T3) and were related to children's adult-rated EC, impulsivity, and emotion. In addition, the authors found patterns of change in maladjustment were related to these variables at T3 while controlling for the T1 predictor. Externalizing problems (pure or co-occurring with internalizing problems) were associated with low EC, high impulsivity, and negative emotionality, especially anger, and patterns of change also related to these variables. Internalizing problems were associated with low impulsivity and sadness and somewhat with high anger. Low attentional EC was related to internalizing problems only in regard to change in maladjustment. Change in impulsivity was associated with change in internalizing primarily when controlling for change in externalizing problems.

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