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Longitudinal Study: LSAC
Title: Predicting children’s prosocial skills in the early school years: Toddler self-regulatory behaviours and the influence of parenting skills
Authors: Williams, Kate 
Berthelsen, Donna 
Publication Date: 10-Jul-2014
Keywords: prosocial
Abstract: Prosocial skills, such as helpful and considerate behaviours toward others, are a positive asset in supporting effective interpersonal relationships and are thus considered an important dimension of positive development and healthy psychosocial functioning across the lifespan. Research to date indicates that prosocial skills develop rapidly during the early years and that marked and relatively stable individual differences are present by the preschool years. Prior to school entry, prosocial behaviour development occurs largely within the proximal parenting environment with positive parenting practices linked to enhanced prosocial skills in children. Research has also shown that the development of prosocial behaviour is influenced by young children’s early capacity to regulate their own emotions and attention. However, relatively little is known about the degree to which positive parenting exerts an influence on prosocial development through differential parenting effects on children’s self-regulatory skills. This study uses data from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) to investigate how positive parenting (warmth and non-hostile parenting) contribute to the development of enhanced toddler self-regulatory skills and therefore enhanced prosocial behaviour of young children. This analysis used data for 2393 children across two waves of data collection. A series of structural equation models explored hypothesised relations between parenting, measured by mother’s and father’s self-report and children’s self-regulation skills when children were 2-3 years old. Prosocial skills were measured by teacher report at 6-7 years. Emotion and cognitive regulation were predictive of children’s prosocial behaviour four years later. Models that examined the direct effect of parenting on prosocial skills did not fit the data well. However, models that tested the hypothesis that parenting contributes to prosocial skills through its positive effects on children’s self-regulation skills did show good fit. Specifically, maternal and paternal non-hostile parenting made substantial contributions through children’s better emotion regulation at 2-3 years, as did maternal and paternal warmth. Maternal warmth and non-hostile parenting were the strongest contributors to better cognitive regulation in children, followed by paternal non-hostility and warmth. These findings provide increased understanding of the intergenerational pathways through which children’s behavioural regulation develops and the impact of regulatory behaviours on prosocial skills. These findings contribute new knowledge that can inform early parenting interventions. Parenting support that results in a reduction in hostile parenting styles in both mothers and fathers is likely to have substantial benefits for children’s self-regulation skills and thus their later capacities for prosocial behaviour.
Conference: International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development Conference
Conference location: Shanghai, China
Keywords: Families -- Parents and Parenting; Child Development -- Social; Child Development -- Behaviour
Research collection: Conference Presentations
Appears in Collections:Conference Presentations

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