Decreases in children's anger reactivity because of the onset of their autonomous use of strategies characterizes the prevailing model of the development of emotion regulation in early childhood (Kopp, 1989). There is, however, limited evidence of the varied pathways that mark this development and their proposed antecedents and consequences. This study used a person-centered approach to identify such pathways, antecedents, and outcomes. A sample of 120 children from economically strained rural and semirural households were observed while waiting to open a gift at ages 24, 36, and 48 months. Multitrajectory modeling of children's anger expressions and strategy use yielded three subgroups. As they aged, typically developing children's strategy use (calm bids and focused distraction) increased while anger expressions decreased. Later developing children, though initially elevated in anger expression and low in strategy use, demonstrated marked growth across indicators and did not differ from typically developing children at 48 months. At-risk children, despite developing calm bidding skills, did not display longitudinal self-distraction increases or anger expression declines. Some predicted antecedents (12-24 month child language skills and language-capitalizing parenting practices) and outcomes (age 5 years externalizing behavior) differentiated pathways. Findings illustrate how indicator-specific departures from typical pathways signal risk for behavior problems and point to pathway-specific intervention opportunities.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health