The relation of attentional, emotional, and social regulation to cognitive competence, from infancy to school entry
Miller, Fiona K.
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Recent research on the sources of cognitive competence in infancy and early childhood has highlighted the role of social and emotional factors (for example, Lewis, 1993b). Exploring the roots of competence requires a longitudinal and multivariate approach. To deal with the resulting complexity, potentially integrative theoretical constructs are required. One logical candidate is self-regulation. Three key developmental questions were the focus of this investigation. 1) Does infant self-regulation (attentional, emotional, and social) predict preschool cognitive competence? 2) Does infant self-regulation predict preschool self-regulation? 3) Does preschool self-regulation predict concurrent preschool cognitive competence? One hundred preschoolers (46 females, 54 males; mean age = 5 years, 11 months) who had participated at 9- and/ or 12-months of age in an object permanence task were recruited to participate in this longitudinal investigation. Each subject completed four scales of the WPPSI-R and two social cognitive tasks. Parents completed questionnaires about their preschoolers' regulatory behaviours (Achenbach's Child Behavior Checklist  and selected items from Eisenberg et ale  and Derryberry & Rothbart ). Separate behavioural coding systems were developed to capture regulatory capabilities in infancy (from the object permanence task) and preschool (from the WPPSIR Block Design). Overall, correlational and multiple regression results offered strong affirmative answers to the three key questions (R's = .30 to .38), using the behavioural observations of self-regulation. Behavioural regulation at preschool substantially predicted parental reports of regulation, but the latter variables did not predict preschool competence. Infant selfregulation and preschool regulation made statistically independent contributions to competence, even though regulation at Time 1 and Time 2 ii were substantially related. The results are interpreted as supporting a developmental pathway in which well-regulated infants more readily acquire both expertise and more sophisticated regulatory skills. Future research should address the origins of these skills earlier in infancy, and the social contexts that generate them and support them during the intervening years.