Parenting, Attachment and Child Outcomes: Self-Regulation as a Developmental mechanism
Type of Degreedissertation
Human Development and Family Studies
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Using data from The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD), I conducted two distinct but related studies. In the first study, the associations between maternal sensitivity and enrichment behaviors in infancy and two domains of self-regulation, executive functioning (EF) and effortful control (EC) in preschool were examined for children who were securely and insecurely attached. Maternal sensitivity and enrichment were measured at 15 months using a combination of observation and maternal report. Attachment behavior was also coded when children were 15 months during a laboratory observation session. Executive functioning, indexed by attention focusing and memory, was measured at 54 months using a combination of observation and maternal report, Finally, effortful control, indexed by two indicators of impulse control, was measured at 54 months using maternal report. Structural Equation modeling and multi-group analyses indicated that enrichment behaviors were predictive of EF and EC for secure children while sensitivity was predictive of EC for insecure children. Findings illustrate differences in the influences of early parenting on the development of self-regulation skills for children based on attachment security. The second study examined EF and EC in preschool as potential mediators of the effects of maternal sensitivity and enrichment in infancy on academic achievement and behavior problems in 3rd grade. Attachment security at 15 months was again examined as a moderator of the mediated or indirect pathways from early parenting to later child outcomes. Academic achievement in the 3rd grade was measured using direct assessments of verbal and mathematics skills and total behavior problems were measured using mother report. Findings illustrate that EF and EC serve as mechanisms through which early parenting predicts later developmental outcomes and that these indirect or mediated pathways differ based on attachment security. Specifically, while both secure and insecure children benefit from sensitivity through EF, effects of enrichment differ across groups. That is, for secure children enrichment predicted academic achievement through EF skills and behavior problems through EF and EC skills. Only one pathway, enrichment to behavior problems through EF, emerged for insecure children.