Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 947–960 | Cite as

Preschoolers’ Self-Regulation in Context: Task Persistence Profiles with Mothers and Fathers and Later Attention Problems in Kindergarten

  • Erika LunkenheimerEmail author
  • Carlomagno Panlilio
  • Frances M. Lobo
  • Sheryl L. Olson
  • Catherine M. Hamby


Task persistence is related to attentional regulation and is needed for the successful transition to school. Understanding preschoolers’ task persistence with caregivers could better inform the development and prevention of attention problems across this transition. Preschoolers’ real-time task persistence profiles during problem-solving tasks with mothers (N=214) and fathers (N=117) were examined as antecedents of teacher-rated attention problems in kindergarten, accounting for child temperament, parenting, and preschool attention problems. Group-based trajectory modeling identified five profiles with mothers and four with fathers; more children showed high task persistence with mothers than fathers. With mothers, when persistence started low and increased over time, children had lower inhibitory control, higher verbal skills, and received more directives. This increasing profile had the highest-rated attention problems, followed by the stable low persistence profile; both groups showed higher attention problems than children who started high and declined slowly in persistence over time. Results implied children who start tasks low in persistence may require the most maternal effort to get on task, and whether those efforts are successful (increasing persistence) or not (stable low persistence), may be the same children teachers perceive as having the most attention problems. Profiles with fathers were not associated with attention problems but pointed to the importance of father-child affective processes (child negative emotion, paternal praise) in children’s task persistence. Findings suggest mothers and fathers play different roles in regulatory development and that person-centered profiles of self-regulation in context may inform the prevention of children’s regulatory problems.


task persistence self-regulation attention problems parenting fathers person-centered modeling 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, RO1MH57489, and the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, K01HD068170.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PsychologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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