The Role of Self-Regulation in Academic and Behavioral Paths to a High School Diploma

  • Christopher CambronEmail author
  • Rick Kosterman
  • Richard F. Catalano
  • Katarina Guttmannova
  • Todd I. Herrenkohl
  • Karl G. Hill
  • J. David Hawkins



This study’s goal was to examine academic and behavioral paths to obtaining a high school diploma.


Data were drawn from a gender-balanced, ethnically diverse longitudinal sample of 808 youth from 18 Seattle public elementary schools serving high crime neighborhoods. Structural equation modeling was used to simultaneously estimate longitudinal academic and behavioral paths to a high school diploma.


Results showed support for an academic path whereby higher academic performance in middle school predicted higher academic performance in high school which, in turn, increased the likelihood of obtaining a high school diploma. Results also supported a unique behavioral path whereby poor self-regulation during middle school predicted increased antisocial behavior in high school which, in turn, reduced the likelihood of obtaining a high school diploma. A third path emerged showing that higher family socioeconomic resources directly increased the likelihood of obtaining a high school diploma after accounting for academic performance, poor self-regulation, antisocial behavior, poor family functioning, and school prosocial development. Mediation analyses showed that high school antisocial behavior was a mechanism connecting middle school self-regulation and obtaining a high school diploma.


Results suggest that poor self-regulation is linked to academic attainment through its connection with antisocial behavior. Interventions seeking to improve rates of high school graduation and reduce antisocial behavior may enhance their impact by focusing on self-regulation in conjunction with supporting academic success and family socioeconomics.


Self-regulation Antisocial behavior High school diploma Structural equation modeling 



Data collection for this study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (5R01DA003721 and 5R01DA033956). Support was provided by a National Poverty Research Center Dissertation Fellowship awarded by the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison with funding from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, US Department of Health and Human Services, Cooperative Agreement number AE00103. Support was provided by a Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development research infrastructure grant, No. R24HD042828, and training grant No. T32HD007543 to the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the University of Washington. The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the authors and should not be construed as representing the opinions or policy of any agency of the Federal government. The authors would like to thank Paula Nurius and Amelia Gavin for their helpful comments on earlier drafts.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of UtahCenter for Health Outcomes and Population Equity, Huntsman Cancer InstituteSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors,Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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