EMOTION REGULATION, MULTIPLE RISK, AND EXTERNALIZING BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS

Open Access
Author:
Hall, Sarah Elizabeth
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
December 17, 2008
Committee Members:
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Dissertation Advisor
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Committee Chair
  • Amy Dyanna Marshall, Committee Member
  • Kristin Buss, Committee Member
  • J Douglas Coatsworth, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • protective factors
  • externalizing
  • behavior problems
  • cumulative risk
  • risk
  • emotion regulation
Abstract:
Children’s skill at regulating their emotions is an important component of short- and long-term healthy development. Difficulties with emotion regulation are associated with behavior problems across childhood, beginning in the toddler and preschool years, and skillful emotion regulation appears to play a protective role for children at risk for the development of behavioral difficulties. The present study examined the links among multiple risk, emotion regulation, and externalizing behavior problems longitudinally in young children (ages 30 to 48 months). Risk was conceptualized as exposure to stressors, and both additive and cumulative approaches to assessing risk were employed. Exposure to higher levels of risk, as measured by both approaches, predicted externalizing behavior problem symptoms. Skill at emotion regulation inconsistently predicted externalizing symptoms. Finally, contrary to prediction, competent emotion regulation did not act as a buffer, moderating the link between risk exposure and behavior problems. Possible explanations for the unexpected findings regarding young children’s emotion regulation are examined, and implications of the findings for the conceptualization and study of risk are discussed.