Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 45, Issue 8, pp 1491–1502 | Cite as

Does Preschool Self-Regulation Predict Later Behavior Problems in General or Specific Problem Behaviors?

  • Christopher J. LoniganEmail author
  • Jamie A. Spiegel
  • J. Marc Goodrich
  • Brittany M. Morris
  • Colleen M. Osborne
  • Matthew D. Lerner
  • Beth M. Phillips


Findings from prior research have consistently indicated significant associations between self-regulation and externalizing behaviors. Significant associations have also been reported between children’s language skills and both externalizing behaviors and self-regulation. Few studies to date, however, have examined these relations longitudinally, simultaneously, or with respect to unique clusters of externalizing problems. The current study examined the influence of preschool self-regulation on general and specific externalizing behavior problems in early elementary school and whether these relations were independent of associations between language, self-regulation, and externalizing behaviors in a sample of 815 children (44% female). Additionally, given a general pattern of sex differences in the presentations of externalizing behavior problems, self-regulation, and language skills, sex differences for these associations were examined. Results indicated unique relations of preschool self-regulation and language with both general externalizing behavior problems and specific problems of inattention. In general, self-regulation was a stronger longitudinal correlate of externalizing behavior for boys than it was for girls, and language was a stronger longitudinal predictor of hyperactive/impulsive behavior for girls than it was for boys.


Self-regulation Executive function Externalizing behavior Inattention Preschool 



This research was supported by grants from the Institute of Education Sciences (R324E06086 & R305B090021). Preparation of this work was supported by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Schriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD052120). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and have not been reviewed or approved by the granting agencies.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study (i.e., parents or guardians provided informed consent/permission for children’s participation).

Supplementary material

10802_2016_260_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (292 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 292 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher J. Lonigan
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jamie A. Spiegel
    • 1
  • J. Marc Goodrich
    • 1
    • 3
  • Brittany M. Morris
    • 1
  • Colleen M. Osborne
    • 1
  • Matthew D. Lerner
    • 1
  • Beth M. Phillips
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Department PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Florida Center for Reading ResearchFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Special Education and Communication DisordersUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA
  4. 4.Department of Educational Psychology and Learning SystemsFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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