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Two-generation approach to improving emotional and behavioral regulation

Increasing evidence indicates that exposure to poverty in early childhood may undermine neural growth that is critical to developing executive functions (EF) and, in turn, emotional and behavioral regulation (Blair et al. 2011; Kim et al., 2013; Raver et al., 2013). There is, however, also increasing evidence indicating that high-quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) (a) buffers children from risks associated with early exposure to poverty and (b) supports healthy socio-emotional development (Bierman et al., 2008; Raver, 2002; Yoshikawa et al., 2013). One line of this intervention work has focused on two-generation programs that pair high-quality ECE with supports for parents that are designed to improve parenting and the home environment. Although evidence on two-generation programs is mixed (Grindal et al., 2016; Neville et al., 2013), it is clear that much of the risk of poverty is relayed to children through their homes, and parenting is among the most critical influences on child emotional and behavioral self-regulation in infancy and early childhood (Bradley & Corwyn, 2004; Calkins & Johnson, 1998; Calkins et al., 1998). The present study builds on existing theoretical and empirical prior work indicating that children's EF skills are important precursors to emotional and behavioral regulation that may be best promoted when addressed in both classroom and home contexts. Specifically, the present study uses a randomized design to evaluate the effects of classroom-based activities that target children's executive functioning and the value added by training parents to better support their children's EFs. Children were evaluated pre- and post-intervention on EF skills and prosocial and adaptive problem-solving behavior. In general, few significant effects of either the child training or the added parent component were evident. These findings are discussed with special attention to the fact that fidelity of implementation of the classroom and parent trainings was low, with less than half of teachers incorporating games at least once a week and only 13 percent of parents attending the trainings. In addition, implications for future empirical work as well as policy and practice are discussed with special attention given to further inquiry into the malleability of EF. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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