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«Kate Elizabeth Williams RMT BMus PGDipMusThy MEd(Research) Supervisors: Professor Donna Berthelsen Associate Professor Sue Walker Professor Jan M. ...»

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SELF-REGULATION FROM BIRTH TO AGE SEVEN:

ASSOCIATIONS WITH MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH,

PARENTING, AND SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL AND

BEHAVIOURAL OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN

Kate Elizabeth Williams

RMT BMus PGDipMusThy MEd(Research)

Supervisors:

Professor Donna Berthelsen

Associate Professor Sue Walker

Professor Jan M. Nicholson This thesis is submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Early Childhood Faculty of Education Queensland University of Technology

ABSTRACT

This research is focussed on self-regulation across early childhood and its associations with later behavioural outcomes for children, maternal mental health and maternal parenting. Self-regulation refers to individuals’ capacities to regulate their own behaviour, emotions and cognitions in a way that is adaptive to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Self-regulation develops rapidly in the early years and is a critical predictor of educational and life success. The research documented in this thesis contributes new and important Australian evidence through the use of a large longitudinal dataset and contemporary statistical modelling techniques.

This research involved a sample of 2880 children participating in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) – B Cohort. Data from Wave 1 (birth to 1 year), Wave 2 (2-3 years), Wave 3 (4-5 years) and Wave 4 (6-7 years) were used. Self-regulation measures were maternal reports of children’s sleep, emotional and cognitive regulation across the first three waves (birth to five years). The outcome measures were mother and teacher reports of social, emotional and behavioural problems at Wave 4 (6-7 years). Parenting variables investigated were maternal self- report of mental health, parenting self-efficacy and a number of parenting behaviours.

Four studies were conducted to complete the program of research.

In Study 1, confirmatory factor analysis established measurement models for sleep, emotional and cognitive regulation across early childhood based on short parent- report measures. Longitudinal structural equation modelling then established that sleep regulation predicted subsequent emotion regulation and emotion regulation predicted subsequent cognitive regulation. The models in Study 2 found evidence for the predictive validity of early childhood self-regulation in relation to both mother- and teacher-reported behaviour problems at 6-7 years. Further models found evidence for mother- and child-driven effects in regards to maternal mental health and children’s self-regulation. In the first three years poorer maternal mental health contributed to poorer self-regulation skills in children. From 2-3 years of age, child-driven effects emerged whereby children with poorer self-regulation skills contributed to poorer maternal mental health over time, over and above prior levels of psychological distress in mothers.

i Study 3 again used structural equation modelling and found that while none of the parenting behaviours or mental health were moderators of the relationship between early self-regulation and later behaviour outcomes, several did mediate the relationship.

Specifically, children with poorer self-regulation skills at 2-3 years contributed to poorer maternal mental health and self-efficacy and more negative parenting two years later, which in turn contributed to more behaviour problems for children at 6-7 years.

Study 4 used latent profile analysis to describe the normative developmental path for self-regulation in Australian children. This normative path was experienced by 69 % of the sample and was characterised by consistently better emotional and cognitive regulation than the non-normative paths and sleep regulation that steadily improved from birth to 5. The remaining 31% of the sample were members of two poorer selfregulation profiles which displayed non-normative patterns of self-regulation development characterised primarily by decreasing sleep regulation skills across the first five years.

This program of research as a whole makes a significant contribution to the body of self-regulation research and to the early childhood education and care policy and practice environments in Australia. It is the first of its kind to use large sample longitudinal panel data to describe self-regulation development in Australian children, to provide a prevalence estimate for early childhood self-regulatory problems, and to establish empirical evidence for the bidirectional effects between maternal mental health and children’s self-regulation across the early years. The findings have important implications for the support of children and parents during early childhood. They suggest that children at risk of longer term self-regulation problems and therefore early school behavioural problems might be identified by parent report of sleep problems and emotional and cognitive regulation. Families in which mothers have a significant history of depression and / or ongoing mental health challenges are an important risk group. An important next step for research and practice in this field is to identify the kinds of parenting supports and attributes of early childhood education and care that might best stimulate positive growth in children’s self-regulation skills with the aim of giving all children the best chance of success across their schooling careers.





ii STATEMENT OF ORIGINAL AUTHORSHIP

The work contained in this thesis has not been previously submitted for a degree or diploma at any other higher education institution. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the thesis contains no material previously published or written by another person except where due reference is made.

The research was conducted with the support of an Australian Postgraduate Awards and QUT VC top-up scholarship. The research design was substantially my own work. I completed the data analyses. My supervisors provided advice and feedback.

This thesis uses unit record data from Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. The study is conducted in partnership between the Department of Social Services (DSS), the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The findings and views reported in this paper are those of the authors and should not be attributed to DSS, AIFS or the ABS.

–  –  –

If this thesis is my third baby, then the father and midwives are the ones to thank most profusely. Huge thanks go to my best friend and husband Tim Williams. He has been just as committed to completing this project as I have been. To take long service leave to run our family while I focussed on the final write-up shows incredible unselfish dedication. He also believed in me when I didn’t and so credit as father of this project goes to him. It certainly wouldn’t have happened without him.

To my principal supervisor Donna Berthelsen I owe thanks for accepting me as a student for a second time, and engaging me in a new career of research. She has always been incredibly generous with her time, experience and knowledge and it is unlikely that I would ever have embarked on a PhD except for meeting her. She inspired and encouraged me and like any good midwife trusted me to do it my way when I could, but also used her wisdom to lead me in new directions when it was needed.

Thanks to Jan Nicholson who has always understood my need for boxes and arrows and has an uncanny ability to provide just the right insight at just the right time.

Thanks to her incredible experience and expertise she was able to help me explain some of my findings when I struggled and has provided lots of encouragement along the way.

Sincere gratitude also to Sue Walker for taking me on as a student and always being available for a word of advice or encouragement. Her skills in wrangling statistical software and editing written work have been a great support.

Heartfelt thanks to my children Miles and Heidi who have deepened my passion for early childhood, inspired the topic of this research, and have been very patient and supportive along the way. They have never begrudged sharing my time in the lengthy gestation of this project. Finally, thank you to all of my treasured family, friends and colleagues. Like many, I’ve juggled lots of hats over the last few years and at times neglected you and our shared interests. Thanks for sticking with me and offering your support and encouragement in lots of different ways.

–  –  –

Abstract

STATEMENT OF ORIGINAL AUTHORSHIP

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF FIGURES

LIST OF TABLES

KEY ABBREVIATIONS USED ACROSS THE THESIS

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE RESEARCH

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Background to the Research

1.3 The Current Research

1.3.1 Research problem

1.3.2 Research questions and studies

1.3.3 Methodology

1.4 Significance of the Research

1.5 The Nature of Self-Regulation

1.6 Overview of the Thesis

1.7 Conclusion

CHAPTER 2: RESEARCH AND THEORY ON SELF-REGULATION

2.1 Introduction

–  –  –

2.3 The Structure of Self-Regulation

2.3.1 Self-regulation and sleep

2.3.2 Implications for the structure of self-regulation in the current study

2.4 Measuring Self-Regulation

2.4.1 Parent, teacher or carer report

2.4.2 Laboratory tests

2.4.3 Observation measures

2.4.4 Physiological measures

2.4.5 Implications for measurement in the current study

2.5 Development of Self-Regulation: Prenatal Period to Middle Childhood

2.5.1 Neurobiology and self-regulation

2.6 Self-Regulation as a Predictor of Outcomes

2.7 Self-Regulation as a Moderator or Mediator of Outcomes

2.8 Children’s Self-Regulation and Parenting

2.8.1 Parenting behaviours

2.8.2 Parent mental health

2.8.3 Child-driven effects

2.9 Implications for the Current Research

2.10 Conclusion

CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Secondary Analysis of Longitudinal Datasets

3.3 The LSAC Study

3.4 Sample Selection and Description of Participants

3.5 Measurement Instruments

3.5.1 Self-regulation measures

3.5.2 Parenting measures

vi 3.5.3 Social, emotional and behavioural outcome measure

3.5.4 Control variables

3.6 Analytic Techniques

3.6.1 The four key analytic approaches used in this thesis

3.6.2 Variable-centred and person-centred approaches

3.6.3 Mediation and moderation

3.6.4 Analytic steps in the development of the measurement and structural models

3.6.5 Analysis steps for latent profile analysis (LPA)

3.6.6 Missing data

3.7 The Four Studies Developed in This Thesis

3.7.1 Study 1: Relationships among sleep, reactivity, and persistence from infancy to 5 years..... 91 3.7.2 Study 2: Associations between early childhood self-regulation, maternal mental health and behavioural outcomes for children

3.7.3 Study 3: The role of maternal parenting and mental health in the relationship between early childhood self-regulation and later behavioural problems

3.7.4 Study 4: Longitudinal profiles of self-regulation across the first five years and their relationship to parenting and behavioural outcomes.

3.8 Ethical Considerations

3.9 Conclusion

CHAPTER 4: STUDY 1: RELATIONSHIPS AMONG SLEEP, REACTIVITY AND

PERSISTENCE FROM INFANCY TO 5 YEARS

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Data and Methods

4.2.1 Measures used in the analyses

4.2.2 Approach to the analyses

4.3 Results

4.3.1 Descriptive statistics

4.3.2 Measurement models for sleep regulation

4.3.3 Measurement models for reactivity

4.3.4 Measurement models for persistence

4.3.5 Cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships: Sleep, reactivity and persistence............... 113

4.4 Discussion

–  –  –

CHAPTER 5: STUDY 2: ASSOCIATIONS BETWEEN EARLY CHILDHOOD SELFREGULATION, MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH AND BEHAVIOURAL OUTCOMES

FOR CHILDREN

5.1 Introduction

5.2 Data and Methods

5.2.1 Measures used in the analyses

5.2.2 Approach to the analyses

5.3 Results

5.3.1 Descriptive statistics

5.3.2 Self-regulation from birth to 5 years and prediction of behavioural problems at 6-7 years.131 5.3.3 Child-driven effects of self-regulation on maternal mental health from birth to 7 years.... 136 5.3.4 Mother-driven effects of maternal mental health on children’s self-regulation from birth to 5 years………………

5.3.5 Combined longitudinal panel model of self-regulation, maternal mental health and behavioural outcomes

5.4 Discussion

5.4.1 Early self-regulation predicts later behaviour problems

5.4.2 Maternal mental health and self-regulation: Mother- and child-driven effects.................. 150 5.4.3 Socio-economic status, gender and early childhood self-regulation

5.5 Conclusion

CHAPTER 6: STUDY 3: THE ROLE OF MATERNAL PARENTING AND MENTAL

HEALTH IN THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EARLY CHILDHOOD SELFREGULATION AND LATER BEHAVIOURAL PROBLEMS IN CHILDREN............. 157

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Data and Methods

6.2.1 Measures used in the analyses

6.2.2 Approach to the analyses

6.3 Results

6.3.1 Descriptive statistics

–  –  –

6.4 Discussion

6.5 Conclusion

CHAPTER 7: STUDY 4: LONGITUDINAL PROFILES OF SELF-REGULATION

ACROSS THE FIRST FIVE YEARS AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO PARENTING

AND BEHAVIOURAL OUTCOMES



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