Social skills and problem behaviors as mediators of the relationship between behavioral self-regulation and academic achievement
Early behavioral self-regulation is an important predictor of the skills children need to be successful in school. However, little is known about the mechanism(s) through which self-regulation affects academic achievement. The current study investigates the possibility that two aspects of children's social functioning, social skills and problem behaviors, mediate the relationship between preschool self-regulation and literacy and math achievement. Additionally, we investigated whether the meditational processes differed for boys and girls. We expected that better self-regulation would help children to interact well with others (social skills) and minimize impulsive or aggressive (problem) behaviors. Positive interactions with others and few problem behaviors were expected to relate to gains in achievement as learning takes place within a social context. Preschool-aged children (n = 118) were tested with direct measures of self-regulation, literacy, and math. Teachers reported on children's social skills and problem behaviors. Using a structural equation modeling approach (SEM) for mediation analysis, social skills and problem behaviors were found to mediate the relationship between self-regulation and growth in literacy across the preschool year, but not math. Findings suggest that the mediational process was similar for boys and girls. These findings indicate that a child's social skills and problem behaviors are part of the mechanism through which behavioral self-regulation affects growth in literacy. Self- regulation may be important not just because of the way that it relates directly to academic achievement but also because of the ways in which it promotes or inhibits children's interactions with others. (author abstract)
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