Self-regulation develops rapidly during the toddler years and underlies many important developmental outcomes, including social-emotional competence and academic achievement. It is important to understand factors that contribute to early self-regulation skills among children at risk for adjustment difficulties in these domains, such as children growing up in poverty. The current study examined mother-reported child temperament (negative affect, effortful control) and observed maternal parenting (during a mother–child free play) as contributing factors to toddlers’ observed self-regulation during delay of gratification tasks at 27 months (snack delay) and 33 months (gift delay). Participants were 198 toddlers (Mage = 27 months; 53% boys; 48% non-Hispanic white) and their mothers from low-income families. Mothers’ negative parenting characterized by negative affect, hostility, and negative control was associated with poorer self-regulation contemporaneously. Toddlers’ lower negative affect and higher effortful control predicted better self-regulation at 33 months, but positive parenting characterized by positive affect and sensitivity moderated these associations at both time points. Specifically, we found a buffering effect of high positive parenting among toddlers with a temperamental risk and a deleterious effect of low positive parenting despite toddlers’ temperamental strength. Results highlight the importance of positive parenting for fostering the development of self-regulation among toddlers growing up with poverty-related and child-level risks.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Adler, N. E., Boyce, T., Chesney, M. A., Folkman, S., & Syme, L. (1993). Socioeconomic inequalities in health: No easy solution. Journal of the American Medical Association, 269, 3140–3145. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.1993.03500240084031.
Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Arbuckle, J. L. (2013). Amos (Version 22.0)[Computer Program]. Chicago: IBM SPSS.
Belsky, J., Hsieh, K., & Crnic, K. (1998). Mothering, fathering, and infant negativity as antecedents of boys’ externalizing problems and inhibition at age 3 years: Differential susceptibility to rearing experience? Development and Psychopathology, 10, 301–319. https://doi.org/10.1017/S095457949800162X.
Black, M. M., Dubowitz, H., & Starr, Jr., R. H. (1999). African American fathers in low income, urban families: development, behavior, and home environment of their three-year-old children. Child Development, 70, 967–978. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00070.
Blandon, A. Y., & Volling, B. L. (2008). Parental gentle guidance and children’s compliance within the family: A replication study. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 355–366. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-322.214.171.1245.
Bocknek, E. L., Brophy-Herb, H. E., & Banerjee, M. (2009). Effects of parental supportiveness on toddlers’ emotion regulation over the first three years of life in a low-income African American sample. Infant Mental Health Journal, 30, 452–476. https://doi.org/10.1002/imhj.20224.
Booth, C. L., Rose-Krasnor, L., McKinnon, J., & Rubin, K. H. (1994). Predicting social adjustment in middle childhood: The role of preschool attachment security and maternal style. Social Development, 3, 189–204. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9507.1994.tb00040.x.
Bradley, R. H., & Corwyn, R. F. (2002). Socioeconomic status and child development. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 371–399. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135233.
Bridgett, D. J., Burt, N. M., Edwards, E. S., & Deater-Deckard, K. (2015). Intergenerational transmission of self-regulation: A multidisciplinary review and integrative conceptual framework. Psychological Bulletin, 141, 602–654. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038662.
Bronson, M. B. (2000). Self-regulation in early childhood: Nature and nurture. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Buckner, J. C., Mezzacappa, E., & Beardslee, W. R. (2003). Characteristics of resilient youths living in poverty: The role of self-regulatory processes. Development and Psychopathology, 15, 139–162. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579403000087.
Calkins, S. (1994). Origins and outcomes of individual differences in emotion regulation. In N. A. Fox (Ed.), The development of emotion regulation: Biological and behavioral considerations. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59(2–3, Serial No. 240, pp. 53–72).
Calkins, S., & Johnson, M. C. (1998). Toddler regulation of distress to frustrating events: Temperamental and maternal correlates. Infant Behavior and Development, 21, 379–395. doi:10.1016/S0163-6383(98)90015-7.
Calkins, S. D., Brownell, C. A., & Kopp, C. B. (2007). The emergence of self-regulation: Biological and behavioral control mechanisms supporting toddler competencies. In C. A. Brownell & C. B. Kopp (Eds.), Socioemotional development in the toddler years: Transitions and transformations (pp. 261–284). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Calkins, S. D., Smith, C. L., Gill, K. L., & Johnson, M. C. (1998). Maternal interactive style across contexts: Relations to emotional, behavioral, and physiological regulation during toddlerhood. Social Development, 7, 350–369. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9507.00072.
Cecil, C. A., Barker, E. D., Jaffee, S. R., & Viding, E. (2012). Association between maladaptive parenting and child self-control over time: Cross-lagged study using a monozygotic twin difference design. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 201, 291–297. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.111.107581.
Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., Pruett, M. K., Pruett, K., & Wong, J. J. (2009). Promoting fathers’ engagement with children: Preventive interventions for low-income families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 663–679. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00625.x.
Conger, R. D., Conger, K. J., & Martin, M. J. (2010). Socioeconomic status, family processes, and individual development. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 685–704. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00725.x.
Conway, A., & Stifter, C. A. (2012). Longitudinal antecedents of executive function in preschoolers. Child Development, 83, 1022–1036. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01756.x.
Coyne, L. W., Low, C. M., Miller, A. L., Seifer, R., & Dickstein, S. (2007). Mothers’ empathic understanding of their toddlers: Associations with maternal depression and sensitivity. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 16, 483–497. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-006-9099-9.
Crockenberg, S., & Litman, C. (1990). Autonomy as competence in 2-year-olds: Maternal correlates of child defiance, compliance, and self-assertion. Developmental Psychology, 26, 961–971. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16126.96.36.1991.
Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (1994). Socialization mediators of the relation between socioeconomic status and child conduct problems. Child Development, 65, 649–665. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1994.tb00774.x.
Eisenberg, N., Cumberland, A., & Spinrad, T. L. (1998). Parental socialization of emotion. Psychological Inquiry, 9, 241–273. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327965pli0904_1.
Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T. L., Eguum, N. D., Silva, K. M., Reiser, M., & Hofer, C., et al. (2010). Relations among maternal socialization, effortful control, and maladjustment in early childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 22, 507–525. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579410000246.
Else-Quest, N. M., Hyde, J. S., Goldsmith, H. H., & Van Hulle, C. A. (2006). Gender differences in temperament: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 33–72. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.132.1.33.
Enders, C. K. (2010). Applied missing data analysis. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Evans, G. W., & Cassells, R. C. (2013). Childhood poverty, cumulative risk exposure, and mental health in emerging adults. Clinical Psychological Science, 2, 287–296. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702613501496.
Forman, D. (2007). Autonomy, compliance and internalization. In C. Brownell & C. Kopp (Eds.), Socio-emotional development in the toddler years: Transitions and transformation (pp. 261–284). NewYork: Guilford Press.
Gallitto, E. (2015). Temperament as a moderator of the effects of parenting on children’s behavior. Development and Psychopathology, 27, 757–773. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579414000753.
Garner, P. W., & Spears, F. M. (2000). Emotion regulation in low-income preschoolers. Social Development, 9, 246–264. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9507.00122.
Gilliom, M., Shaw, D., Beck, J., Schonberg, M., & Lukon, J. (2002). Anger regulation in disadvantaged preschool boys: Strategies, antecedents, and the development of self-control. Developmental Psychology, 38, 222–235. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16188.8.131.52.
Gueron-Sela, N., Wagner, N. J., Propper, C. B., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Moore, G. A., & Cox, M. J. (2017). The interaction between child respiratory sinus arrhythmia and early sensitive parenting in the prediction of children’s executive functions. Infancy, 22, 171–189. https://doi.org/10.1111/infa.12152.
Kerr, D. C., Lopez, N. L., Olson, S. L., & Sameroff, A. J. (2004). Parental discipline and externalizing behavior problems in early childhood: The roles of moral regulation and child gender. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32, 369–383. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JACP.0000030291.72775.96.
Kiff, C. J., Lengua, L. J., & Zalewski, M. (2011). Nature and nurturing: Parenting in the context of child temperament. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 14, 251–301. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-011-0093-4.
Kline, R. B. (2011). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Kochanska, G., & Aksan, N. (2006). Children’s conscience and self-regulation. Journal of Personality, 74, 1587–1617. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.2006.00421.x.
Kochanska, G., Coy, K. C., & Murray, K. T. (2001). The development of self-regulation in the first four years of life. Child Development, 72, 1091–1111. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00336.
Kochanska, G., Murray, K. T., & Harlan, F. (2000). Effortful control in early childhood: Continuity and change, antecedents, and implications for social development. Developmental Psychology, 36, 220–232. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.206.
Kochanska, G., Murray, K., Jacques, T., Koenig, A., & Vandergeest, K. (1996). Inhibitory control in young children and its role in emerging internalization. Child Development, 67, 490–507. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131828.
Kopp, C. B. (1989). Regulation of distress and negative emotions: A developmental view. Developmental Psychology, 25, 343–354. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16220.127.116.113.
Little, R. J. A., & Rubin, D. B. (1987). Statistical analysis with missing data. New York: Wiley.
Lovejoy, M. C., Graczyk, P. A., O’Hare, E., & Neuman, G. (2000). Maternal depression and parenting behavior: A metal-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 20, 561–592.
Martin, A., Razza, R. A., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2012). Specifying the links between household chaos and preschool children’s development. Early Child Development and Care, 182, 1247–1263. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2011.605522.
Matthews, J. S., Ponitz, C. C., Morrison, F. J., Matthews, J. S., Ponitz, C. C., & Morrison, F. J. (2009). Early gender differences in self-regulation and academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 689–704. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0014240.
McLoyd, V. C. (1998). Socioeconomic disadvantage and child development. American Psychologist, 53, 185–204. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.53.2.185.
Mendez, J. L., Fantuzzo, J., & Cicchetti, D. (2002). Profiles of social competence among low-income African American preschool children. Child Development, 73, 1085–1100. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00459.
Mesman, J., Stoel, R., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M., van IJzendoorn, M. H., Juffer, F., Koot, H. M., & Alik, L. R. A. (2009). Predicting growth curves of early externalizing problems: Differential susceptibility of children with difficult temperament. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 625–636. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-009-9298-0.
Miller, A. L., McDonough, S. C., Rosenblum, K. L., & Sameroff, A. J. (2002). Emotion regulation in context: Situational effects on infant and caregiver behavior. Infancy, 3, 403–433. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327078IN0304_01.
Miller, A. L., Rosenblum, K. L., Retzloff, L. B., & Lumeng, J. C. (2016). Observed self-regulation is associated with weight in low-income toddlers. Appetite, 105, 705–712. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2016.07.007.
Mistry, R. S., Biesanz, J. C., Taylor, L. C., Burchinal, M., & Cox, M. J. (2004). Economic well-being and children’s social adjustment: The role of family process in an ethnically diverse low-income sample. Child Development, 73, 935–951. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00448.
Moffitt, T. E., Poulton, R., & Caspi, A. (2013). Lifelong impact of early self-control. American Scientist, 101, 352–359. https://doi.org/10.1511/2013.104.352.
Murray, K. T., & Kochanska, G. (2002). Effortful control: Factor structure and relation to externalizing and internalizing behaviors. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30, 503–514. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1019821031523.
NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2004). Affect dysregulation in the mother-child relationship in the toddler years: Antecedents and consequences. Development and Psychopathology, 16, 43–68. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579404044402.
Newton, E. K., Laible, D., Carlo, G., Steele, J. S., & McGinley, M. (2014). Do sensitive parents foster kind children, or vice versa? Bidirectional influences between children’s prosocial behavior and parental sensitivity. Developmental Psychology, 50, 1808–1816. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036495.
Parade, S. H., Dickstein, S., Schiller, M., Hayde, L., & Seifer, R. (2015). Stability of child behavioral style in the first 30 months of life. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 39, 121–129. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025414538555.
Ponitz, C. E. C., McClelland, M. M., Jewkes, A. M., Connor, C. M., Farris, C. L., & Morrison, F. J. (2008). Touch your toes! Developing a direct measure of behavioral regulation in early childhood. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23, 141–158. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2007.01.004.
Posner, M. I., & Rothbart, M. K. (2000). Developing mechanisms of self regulation. Development and Psychopathology, 12, 427–441.
Putnam, S. P., Gartstein, M. A., & Rothbart, M. K. (2006). Measurement of fine-grained aspects of toddler temperament: The Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire. Infant Behavior & Development, 29, 386–401. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2006.01.004.
Putnam, S. P., Spritz, B. L., & Stifter, C. A. (2002). Mother-child coregulation during delay of gratification at 30 months. Infancy, 3, 209–225. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327078IN0302_6.
Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D Scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401. https://doi.org/10.1177/014662167700100306.
Raikes, H. A., Robinson, J. L., Bradley, R. H., Raikes, H. H., & Ayoub, C. C. (2007). Developmental trends in self-regulation among low-income toddlers. Social Development, 16, 128–149. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9507.2007.00375.x.
Raver, C. C., Blair, C., & Garrett-Peters, P., The Family Life Project Key Investigators. (2014). Chronic exposure to poverty, household chaos, and interparental aggression predict children’s emotion regulation. Development and Psychopathology, 12, 1–14.
Rhoades, B. L., Greenberg, M. T., Lanza, S. T., & Blair, C. (2011). Demographic and familial predictors of early executive function development: Contribution of a person-centered perspective. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 108, 638–662. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2010.08.004.
Rochette, E., & Bernier, A. (2016). Parenting and preschoolers’ executive functioning: A case of differential susceptibility? International Journal of Behavioral Development, 40, 151–161. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025414557370.
Rodriguez, M. L., Ayduk, O., Aber, L., Mischel, W., Sethi, A., & Shoda, Y. (2005). A contextual approach to the development of self-regulatory competencies: The role of maternal unresponsivity and toddlers’ negative affect in stressful situations. Social Development, 14, 136–157. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9507.2005.00294.x.
Rothbart, M. K., & Bates, J. E. (2006). Temperament. In N. Eisenberg, W. Damon, R. M. Lerner, N. Eisenberg, W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3, Social, emotional, and personality development (6th ed., pp. 99–166). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Roy, A. L., McCoy, D. C., & Raver, C. C. (2014). Instability versus quality: Residential mobility, neighborhood poverty, and children’s self-regulation. Developmental Psychology, 50, 1891–1896. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036984.
Rubin, K. H., Burgess, K. B., Dwyer, K. M., & Hastings, P. D. (2003). Predicting preschoolers' externalizing behaviors from toddler temperament, conflict, and maternal negativity. Developmental Psychology, 39, 164–176. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1618.104.22.168.
Rutter, M. (2007). Gene–environment interdependence. Developmental Science, 10, 12–18. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00557.x.
Schiffman, R. F., Omar, M. A., & McKelvey, L. M. (2003). Mother-infant interaction in low-income families. MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 28, 246–251. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005721-200307000-00008.
Song, J.-H., & Volling, B. L. (2015). Coparenting and children’s temperament predict firstborns’ cooperation in the care of an infant sibling. Journal of Family Psychology, 29, 130–135. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000052.
Spinrad, T. L., Stifter, C. A., Donelan-McCall, N., & Turner, L. (2004). Mothers’ regulation strategies in response to toddlers’ affect: Links to later emotion self-regulation. Social Development, 13, 40–55. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9507.2004.00256.x.
Stipek, D., Recchia, S., & McClintic, S. (1992). Self-evaluation in young children. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 57, 100. https://doi.org/10.2307/1166190.
Vernon‐Feagans, L., & Cox, M., FLP Key Investigators. (2013). The Family Life Project: An epidemiological and developmental study of young children living in poor rural communities. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 78, 1–125. https://doi.org/10.1111/mono.12047.
Wahlsten, D. (1990). Insensitivity of the analysis of variance to heredity-environment interaction. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 13, 109–161. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X00077797.
Zvara, B. J., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Garrett-Peters, P., Wagner, N. J., Vernon-Feagans, L., & Cox, M., The Family Life Project Key Contributors. (2014). The mediating role of parenting in the associations between household chaos and children’s representations of family dysfunction. Attachment & Human Development, 16, 633–655. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616734.2014.966124.
This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (1R01HD069179).
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All study procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee, and were approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Michigan (HUM00045015).
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Song, JH., Miller, A.L., Leung, C.Y.Y. et al. Positive Parenting Moderates the Association between Temperament and Self-Regulation in Low-Income Toddlers. J Child Fam Stud 27, 2354–2364 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1066-8
- Observational method