Category: Transdiagnostic

Symposium

Temperamental Indicators of Emotion Regulation, Stressful Life Events, and Anxiety in Early Childhood

Friday, November 17
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: Aqua 310, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: Child Anxiety | Emotion Regulation
Presentation Type: Symposium

Emotion regulation (ER) deficits characterize childhood anxiety problems (Suveg & Zeman, 2004) and may emerge from the early childhood temperament traits of low effortful control (inhibitory control, attention control) and negative affectivity (NA) (Santucci et al., 2008). Stressful life events (SLEs; e.g., family conflict, loss, exposure to violence) contribute to the diversity of contexts in which children develop and may determine the extent to which indicators of ER difficulties predict anxiety. To acknowledge the developing nature of ER, we tested whether effortful control and negativity affectivity assessed in both late infancy (age 2) and toddler (age 3) periods interacted with SLEs to predict age 4 anxiety. We hypothesized that low effortful control and negative affect would most strongly predict anxiety at higher numbers of SLEs.


Participants included 134 mother-child dyads who participated in an assessment of a longitudinal study at child age 2. Follow-up assessments at age 3 (n=85) and age 4 (n=60) are ongoing and will exceed 100 for final presentation. Mothers reported children’s NA and effortful control at age 2 (Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire; Putnam et al., 2006) and age 3 (Child Behavior Questionnaire; Putnam & Rothbart, 2006). At age 4, mothers answered 13 yes/no items which we summed for lifetime experience of SLEs and 7 items assessing anxiety/worry for the anxiety outcome on the Infant-Toddler Social Emotional Assessment (Carter & Briggs-Gowan, 2000).


SLEs interacted with age 2 negative affect (t=2.75, p=.009), age 3 negative affect (t=4.86, p<.001), and age 3 effortful control (t=-1.77, p=.084) in separate regression models predicting age 4 anxiety. Probing revealed that a high number (+1 SD) of SLEs provided the context of the strongest relations between each of these predictors (age 2 NA: t=2.51, p = .017; age 3 NA:  t=5.68, p<.001; age 3 effortful control: t = -2.13, p = .040) and age 4 anxiety. Thus, temperamentally-based ER difficulties play a role in predicting childhood anxiety when children experience a high number of stressful life events. Effortful control may not show this effect until later in the toddler period. 

Elizabeth J. Kiel

Associate Professor
Miami University

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