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

Christopher J. Lonigan, Jamie A. Spiegel, J. Marc Goodrich, Brittany M. Morris, Colleen M. Osborne, Matthew D. Lerner, Beth M. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1491-1502
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Executive function
  • Externalizing behavior
  • Inattention
  • Preschool
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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