Preschoolers’ self-regulation and social-emotional problems

Social withdrawal

The latest article from the DESC Lab was published in the journal, Child Psychiatry & Human Development. PACT Study data collected from Davis families between 2016 and 2019 indicated that racial-ethnic minority and non-Hispanic white preschoolers differed most in their internalizing problems, such as anxiety and social withdrawal, among those with low self-regulation. For preschoolers who were identified as racial-ethnic minorities, higher self-regulation was related to fewer internalizing problems, whereas for preschoolers identified as non-Hispanic white, higher self-regulation was related to slightly more internalizing problems. Regardless of preschoolers’ age, gender, and race-ethnicity, low levels of self-regulation were related to higher levels of externalizing behavior problems, such as aggression. These findings suggest racial-ethnic disparities in early internalizing problems are related to preschoolers’ deliberate control of their feelings, thoughts, and behavior, which are negatively related to their behavioral problems. Future research from the DESC Lab will explore the complex relations between children’s self-regulation, stress, and mental health.