ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (5): 556-567.

A Multilevel Analysis of the Developmental Trajectory of Preschoolers’ Effortful Control and Prediction by Parental Parenting Style

LIANG Zongbao;ZHANG Guangzhen;DENG Huihua;SONG Yuan;ZHENG Wenming

1. (1 Research Center for Learning Science/Key Laboratory of Child Development and Learning Science, Ministry of Education, Southeast University, Nanjing 210096, China) (2 Department of Child Health Care, Suzhou Municipal Hospital, Suzhou 215002, China)
• Received:2012-10-26 Published:2013-05-25 Online:2013-05-25
• Contact: LIANG Zongbao;ZHANG Guangzhen

Abstract: Learning to voluntarily suppress impulsivity and activate behavior in accord with social norms and expectations is one of greatest developmental task for preschoolers. Effortful control is the core component of self-regulation and refers to an individual’s ability to inhibit dominant behavior and perform subdominant behavior, as well as modulate physiological, emotional, and behavioral responses during this process. Most of previous research has found that early effortful control plays an important role in human life. It can improve individuals’ physiological and mental health, socio-economic status, and reduce their maladjusted behavior. Although existing research has suggested that preschoolers’ effortful control increases with age, the developmental trajectory of effortful control during preschool years needs further clarification. Whether the developmental trajectory during preschool years is linear or nonlinear, and whether the initial developmental level and change speed are related need to be further studied. Furthermore, the contribution of parenting beliefs and behavior to individual difference in the development of effortful control is very important for educational prevention. This longitudinal study explored the developmental trajectory of preschoolers’ effortful control and the contribution of parental parenting style to it. Four hundred and seventy four preschoolers (264 boys and 210 girls, Mage=50.92 months, SD = 4.21 at the first stage) and their parents participated in this study. Both fathers and mothers reported parenting beliefs and behavior and mother also rated children’s effortful control when children were 4, 5 and 6 years old. Multilevel analysis indicated that: (1) Children’s effortful control increased in a linear fashion during preschool years, and there are significant individual difference in the increasing linear slope and the final development level of effortful control. Children who exhibited higher initial effortful control exhibited a steeper increase in effortful control over time. (2) Children whose parents displayed encouragement and acceptance at T1 exhibited higher effortful control at T3. Children whose parents reported more rejection and punishment at T1 exhibited lower effortful control in at T3. (3) Paternal encouragement and acceptance predicted a steeper increase in the development of children’s effortful control, whereas maternal encouragement and acceptance predicted a slower increase in the development of effortful control. (4) Paternal parenting beliefs and behavior at T1 explained 10% and 2% of the variance in T3 and slope of their children’s effortful control during the preschool years, respectively, while mothers’ beliefs/behavior explained 14% and 3% of the analogous variance. In combination, fathers’ and mothers’ beliefs/behavior explained 19% of the variance in effortful control at age 6 and 10% of the variance in the slope of effortful control.