The Data

We now review some representative examples of the findings to illustrate the overall pattern of results in our work. In general, our findings tend to be consistent with those of others, although we have examined some issues in more detail or in different ways than other researchers.

Social Competence and Externalizing Problem Behaviors

In an initial study with 4- to 6-year-olds (Eisenberg et al., 1993), children's socially appropriate behavior was rated by undergraduates who observed the children's naturally occurring interactions with peers and teachers at school for extended periods of time. For example, the observers rated if the children had good social skills, tended to get into trouble because of their actions, and acted appropriately. Moreover, peer evaluations of sociometric status (popularity) were obtained by asking children to sort pictures of their classmates into piles that indicated how much they liked to play with each peer. Teachers and mothers also rated children on their negative emotional intensity, frequency of negative emotion, attentional regulation (the abilities to shift and focus attention), constructive coping (instrumental coping or trying to take care of the problem by fixing the problem and seeking support), and nonconstructive coping (aggression and venting emotion versus avoidance) coping. Boys who were viewed as socially appropriate and who were popular with peers, were high in teacher-rated attentional regulation, were reported by teachers as exhibiting high levels of constructive coping and low levels of nonconstructive coping, and were low in both intensity and frequency of negative emotion (as rated by teachers). Fewer relations were obtained for girls, although socially appropriate girls were low in nonconstructive coping and in negative emotionality intensity. Many of the correlations ranged from about .40 to .65 (and emotionality and attentional regulation combined accounted for about 50% of the variance in boys' and girls' socially appropriate behavior), even though information on social functioning and regulation or emotionality was obtained from different sources (thereby minimizing common method variance). In addition, children who were both low in attentional regulation and high in negative emotional intensity were particularly likely to be low in socially appropriate behavior and popularity. The findings based on mothers' reports of children's emotionality and regulation were less impressive, although there were some interesting associations. For example, boys viewed by their mothers as being high in negative emotional intensity were rated as low in peer status and observed social competence.

Further, individual differences in regulation and emotionality predicted real-life behavior when children were angered in their social interactions at school (Eisenberg, Fabes, Nyman, et al., 1994). Real-life, naturally occurring events involving anger and frustration were observed over the school year. Children who were relatively likely to use nonabusive verbalizations to deal with anger—a constructive strategy—were high in teacher-rated constructive coping and attentional control (both of these finings were only for boys) and low in nonconstructive coping and negative emotional intensity (for boys and girls). In addition, such children were viewed by mothers as high in instrumental coping and coping by seeking support, and low in aggressive coping and negative emotional intensity (Eisenberg, Fabes, Nyman, et al., 1994). There were fewer findings for other modes of coping with anger, although, for example, teachers' reports of children's negative emotional intensity were related to girls' venting of emotion, children's use of physical retaliation, and low levels of children's avoidant behavior when angered.

Data for these children were also obtained 2, 4, and 6 years later, when children were aged 6- to 8-, 8- to 10-, and 10- to 12-years old. At the 2-year follow-up, teachers' reports of children's socially appropriate/nonaggressive behavior and prosocial/sociable behavior were linked to contemporaneous teacher ratings of high regulation (behavioral and attentional control combined), either high constructive coping or low nonconstructive coping, and low negative emotionality. Thus, when the children were aged 6 to 8, teachers' ratings of children's social functioning were related to their ratings of emotionality and regulation. Of more interest, teachers' reports of children's social functioning at age 6 to 8 correlated with reports of attentional regulation, constructive coping, low nonconstructive coping (for socially appropriate/nonaggressive behavior only), and low emotional intensity provided by different teachers 2 years earlier (at age 4 to 6). Parental reports of regulation and emotionality were infrequently related to teachers' reports of social functioning; however, such reports obtained when the children were aged 6 to 8 were correlated with reports of externalizing problem behaviors in the home concurrently (at age 6 to 8). Moreover, parental reports of attentional regulation and negative emotionality taken at age 4 to 6 correlated, to some degree, with parents' reports of problem behavior at age 6 to 8, albeit primarily for boys.

At the 4-year follow-up, when the children were aged 8 to 10, a composite index of socially competent behavior was computed (see Eisenberg, Fabes, Shepard, et al., 1997). Included in this measure were teachers' reports of children's socially appropriate behavior (in the manner described previously), popularity, prosocial behavior, and aggressive and disruptive behavior. Also included were ratings of how friendly versus hostile children were when they acted out with puppets what they would do in five hypothetical situations involving the potential for conflict with peers (e.g., when the child is excluded from activities or called a "baby"). This aggregate measure of social functioning generally was related to both teachers' and parents' report of high regulation and low negative emotionality, particularly the latter, contemporaneously (at age 8 to 10) as well as when assessed 2 and 4 years earlier. Parents' and teachers' reports of children's nonconstructive coping also tended to predict quality of social functioning. Parents' reports of low regulation, high negative emotionality, and high destructive coping at age 8 to 10 as well as 2 or 4 years earlier tended to predict parents' reports of problem behavior, although findings for father-reported problem behavior held primarily for boys whereas maternal reports of emotionality/regulation also predicted girls' problem behavior (Eisenberg, Fabes, Shepard, et al., 1997).

When the children in this study were 10- to 12-years old, teachers' reports of children's social competence and adjustment continued to be related with teachers' and parents' reports of children's regulation concurrently as well as 2, 4, and 6 years earlier, as well as with teachers' reports of children's low negative emotionality years earlier (and parents' reports of low negative emotionality for boys). Moreover, parents' reports of children's problem behaviors were related to their reports of children's low regulation and high negative emotionality, but only for up to 4 years earlier (i.e., ratings by parents when the children were in preschool were not related to problem behaviors at age 10 to 12; Murphy et al., 2004). Thus, in general, high regulation and low intensity and frequency of negative emotionality predicted socially competent behavior and low levels of problem behavior contemporaneously and across time, albeit primarily in the home context for parental reports of problem behavior. A number of the aforementioned relations held even at age 10 to 12 when the level of children's problem behaviors at younger ages were controlled in the analysis. The fact that parents' reports of problems with adjustment did not relate to teachers' reports of regulation and emotionality at school is probably due to at least two factors: (1) children undoubtedly display somewhat different patterns of problems at school and at home (due to the difference in the people around them, the tasks, and what is expected or allowed in different contexts), and (2) teachers probably are less aware than parents of children's feelings of relatively subtle negative emotions such as anxiety and sadness. Consequently, it is useful to assess children's adjustment and their dispositional regulation and emotionality in multiple settings using a variety of reporters.

As expected, we frequently found that the effects of emotionality and regulation were additive as well as overlapping when predicting social functioning within a given setting (i.e., home or school), even over time (see Eisenberg, Fabes, Shepard, et al., 1997). Of particular interest, at age 8 to 10, there was an interaction of teacher-reported general emotional intensity and regulation when predicting social competence; social competence increased with regulation at all levels of emotional intensity, but the association was strongest for children high in general emotional intensity. A similar interaction was identified at age 6 to 8 years; moreover, similar interactions were obtained when negative emotionality rather than general emotional intensity was used as a predictor. Thus, regulation generally was a predictor of social competence, but especially for children prone to intense emotion. In contrast, negative emotionality did not moderate the relation between regulation and parents' reports of problem behavior.

The sample in the aforementioned study was relatively small (64 to 93 children were in the study, with fewer children at the last assessment), so it was difficult to obtain significant interaction effects when predicting problem behavior (due to lack of power), although some were obtained for the aggregate measure of social competence. However, we also examined the relation of dispositional regulation and emotionality to teacher- and parent-reported problem behavior and social competence in two other large samples. In a study of nearly 200 school children (Eisenberg, Fabes, Guthrie, et al., 1996), parents reported on a number of children's externalizing problem behaviors such as starting fights, being disobedient, breaking rules, lying, and being sneaky. The primary parent (usually mothers)

and teachers also provided information on children's attentional regulation, ego control (primarily behavioral control; see Block & Block, 1980), and ego resiliency (resourceful adaptation to changing circumstances and contingencies, flexible use of the available repertoire of coping strategies, the ability to rebound from stress; see Block & Block, 1980). In addition, children played a game in which their persistence and resistance to cheating were assessed; this measure was viewed as an index of behavioral regulation. Gaze aversion during a distressing film segment also was assessed as an index of attentional control (i.e., the ability to shift attention briefly when needed to lower arousal). Further, baseline facial and heart rate responding were obtained while children viewed the film. Low baseline heart rate has been associated with externalizing problem behaviors in prior work, for example, in the criminology literature (Fowles, 1993; Lahey, Hart, Pliszka, Applegate, & Williams, 1990).

In general, there were consistent relations between reported problem behavior and low regulation, as measured by both adults' reports and by the behavioral (persistence/cheating) task. Moreover, reported problem behavior often was associated with low resiliency. Generally findings were obtained when one reporter (the primary care giving parent or teacher) provided information on emotionality and regulation and another reporter (mother, father, or teacher) provided information on externalizing problem behavior. Additionally, children who tended to use gaze aversion while watching a distressing film segment were relatively low in problem behaviors.

Children with problem behaviors also were viewed as high in negative emotionality (frequency and intensity) and, to some degree, as high in general and positive emotional intensity by parents and teachers (although generally not for correlations with mothers' reports of daughters' problem behavior). Teachers' reports of children's problem behaviors generally were substantially predicted by parents' reports of children's emotionality and vice versa.

Of most interest was the finding that the relation between problem behaviors and regulation sometimes was moderated by children's negative emotionality. For example, teachers' reports of regulation were related to teachers' reports of low problem behavior at all levels of negative emotion; however, the relation was strongest for children high in negative emotionality. Thus, regulation was most important for predicting problem behavior of children prone to negative emotion. A moderating effect also was found when teachers' reports of regulation and emotionality were used to predict parents' reports of problem behavior (averaged across parents). In this case, the relation between regulation and parents' reports of problem behavior was significant for children moderate and high in negative emotionality, but not for children low in negative emotion (who tended to be low in problem behavior). Moderation effects were obtained less frequently when parents' (usually mothers') reports of emotionality and regulation were used in the analyses; however, an interaction effect was obtained for the prediction of fathers' reports of boys' problem behavior. Maternal report of regulation was unrelated to fathers' reports of problem behavior for boys low and moderate in negative emotionality (who were relatively low in problem behavior), but for boys high in negative emotionality, problem behavior decreased with increasing regulation. Thus, in general, regulation appeared to be a particularly important predictor of children's problem behavior for children prone to frequent and intense negative emotions.

Finally, children's heart rate and facial distress during a baseline period (while seeing a calm film) were at least marginally, negatively related to problem behavior; findings held for mother- and father-rated problem behavior for heart rate and for problem behavior as rated by all three reporters for facial distress. This finding is consistent with prior work in which children and adults with low baseline physiological arousal are prone to problem behavior. People with low baseline arousal may seek out stimulation and exciting sensations.

An analysis of the relations of regulation, resiliency (i.e., resourceful adaptation to changing circumstances and contingencies, flexible use of the available repertoire of coping strategies, the ability to rebound from stress), and emotionality to positive social functioning in this sample illustrates the importance of attending to both moderation and mediation in thinking about the prediction of social behavior. In some of the aforementioned studies, we examined moderation effects, but not mediation. Thus, in this sample (Eisenberg, Guthrie, et al., 1997), we examined the possibility that kindergarten to third grade children's socially competent behavior was predicted by the interaction of individual differences in emotionality and regulation, and that the interactive effects of emotionality and regulation on social functioning were mediated by individual differences in resiliency. That is, we expected regulation to predict higher resiliency, which in turn would predict higher social competence, and that the relation between regulation and resiliency would be higher for children prone to negative emotion. Both attentional regulation (teacher- and parent-reported attention shifting and focusing) and behavioral control (including parent and teacher reports of inhibitory control and ego control, as well as the puzzle box persistence task) were assessed. For the puzzle box persistence task, children worked to complete a wooden puzzle for a prize. The puzzle was in a large wooden box and children put their arms into the box through sleeves. Children were not supposed to look into the box at the puzzle, but it was easy to cheat and peak by lifting the sleeves and looking under the cloth blocking the view of the puzzle. The children were left alone to work on the puzzle; the time they persisted on this task while not cheating (and not going off-task) was recorded by observers by means of a hidden camera (the box of the box facing the camera was plexiglass).

Regulation was expected to predict resiliency, which in turn was expected to predict social functioning—in this case, popularity with peers and socially appropriate/prosocial behavior. However, we expected these relations to be stronger for children high in negative emotionality because regulation is more important for those children. The data were analyzed using EQS (a structural modeling program). The effects of attentional (i.e., emotional) control on social status and socially appropriate behavior were mediated by resiliency; in addition, the path from attentional control to resiliency, albeit significant for children both high and low in negative emotionality, was higher for children prone to negative emotion. Thus, children who could regulate their attention appeared to be resilient to stress and, perhaps as a consequence, were better liked by peers and viewed as being more socially appropriate or prosocial by teachers and peers. However, level of attentional control was particularly important for predicting socially appropriate behavior for children prone to negative emotion.

The relation between behavioral regulation and socially appropriate behavior was not mediated by resiliency. Rather, individual differences in behavioral control were directly related to socially appropriate behavior (but not social status). Moreover, this direct effect held only for children high in dispositional negative emotionality. As expected, behavioral control was particularly important for children likely to experience negative emotions because they have more frequent and intense emotions to manage.

At the 2-year follow-up of this sample, the model described above in regard to the prediction of popularity and socially appropriate behavior was replicated; the primary difference was that the positive, significant relation of attentional regulation to resiliency did not differ for children who were low versus high in negative emotionality (Eisenberg, Fabes, et al., 2000). We also found that resiliency did not mediate the relations of attentional regulation and behavioral control to children's externalizing problems. Rather, in a structural equation model, we found similar relations at the first and second assessment: high attentional regulation and behavioral control both provided some unique (nonoverlapping) prediction of low levels of problem behaviors in the children. In addition, there was evidence that the negative relations of attentional regulation and behavioral control (especially the former) to children's problem behavior was greater for children who were prone to experience intense and frequent negative emotion (Eisenberg, Guthrie, et al., 2000).

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