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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: July 2009

7 - Self-Regulatory Processes in the Development of Disruptive Behavior Problems: The Preschool-to-School Transition


Failures in self-regulatory processes underlie the development of early-onset disruptive problem behavior. Two vignettes drawn from our research studies illustrate this connection. In the first, the setting is a preschool classroom:

A small group of boys and girls are playing with wooden blocks. The play is quiet and harmonious: two girls and a boy begin building a tower. Then another boy picks up a block and throws it forcefully across the room, nearly hitting his peers. “DON'T!” they shout. Ignoring their protests, he continues whipping blocks across the room, smiling to himself. His peers move to a far corner, leaving him alone. They continue to protest, and he continues to throw blocks. Finally, a girl picks up a block and throws it at his body. He returns fire before the conflict is stopped by a teacher.

The second setting is the home of a 3-year-old boy. During a research visit, his mother has been asked to encourage her child to put toys into a basket without doing it for him:

The mother's tone is warm and enthusiastic, “Come on, let's clean up. I'll help you!” The child stares straight ahead, as though he did not hear her. During the next 8 minutes, his mother continues to encourage him, trying to make the task into a game (“Do you want to count 'em when you put 'em away?”). He continues to ignore her. Now her face darkens and her voice tone becomes angry as she scolds him for “not following the rules.” He hits her with his fists, runs to his door, and tries to escape. His mother shouts “NO!” and he hits her again.

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