Our research focuses on understanding the early childhood precursors of children’s long-term social, emotional, and academic adjustment. During the preschool period (ages 3-6 years), children show rapid growth in the ability to control their emotional and behavioral responses to environmental demands (self-regulation) and in their ability to understand other peoples’ thoughts, feelings, and motives (theory of mind). Adequate self-regulation and theory of mind provide a foundation for positive adjustment across the lifespan. Young children with impaired self-regulation are at risk for long-term difficulties in emotional, social and cognitive/academic functioning. Effective prevention hinges upon knowledge of early biological and social processes that promote positive adjustment. Key research questions include:
- How do young children’s experiences with mothers, fathers, peers, siblings, and teachers relate to their ability to control their impulses and understand others?
- Why do some young children with early self-regulation difficulties (such as aggressive or fearful behavior) continue to show difficulties across later stages of development whereas others develop normally?
- How does children’s early self-regulation and social understanding develop in western and non-Western cultural settings?