Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Nathan Gottfried


The study investigates age-related changes in behavioral and emotional self-regulation during the preschool period and the relationship between them. Behavioral self-regulation was measured by compliance without external monitors. Emotional self-regulation was measured by the expressed control of emotions and coping strategies. Eighty-eight preschoolers (45 5-year-olds; 43 3-year-olds) participated in a compliance-delay task. They were left alone for 10 min (self-regulated compliance) to sort cutlery in the presence of toys. The demand for emotional self-regulation was manipulated by hiding (low demand) or exposing (high demand) the toys. Children experienced both sessions. All procedures were video-taped. The expressed emotional comfort during the task was rated. Further, mothers and teachers completed ratings of children's compliance and coping strategies. The predicted age-related increase in self-regulated compliance was found. The age-related increase in emotional comfort and posttask interviews supported the expected increase in emotional self-regulation. Mothers' and teachers' ratings indicated that preschool children gradually acquire more independent, problem-focused coping strategies. Boys are more likely to cope with frustration in an aggressive manner whereas girls are more likely to ask for emotional support and seek help. This study is the first to provide evidence for the relationship between behavioral and emotional self-regulation during the preschool period. Self-regulated compliance is associated with independent, problem-focused coping strategies. Emotion-focused strategies, such as aggression and venting, are negatively correlated with self-regulated compliance. Emotional self-regulation contributes to the internalization of standards of behavior and the contribution increases with age. Behavioral self-regulation shows greater consistency across contexts than emotional self-regulation, perhaps because behavioral self-regulation develops faster. The finding that 5-year-olds worked less in the high demand condition than the low, whereas 3-year-olds did not, was interpreted as a reflection of differential ratio of child resources to task demands. The findings support the important contributions of emotional self-regulation to behavioral self-regulation. A new integrative model is proposed to explain the dynamics of the relationship between behavioral and emotional self-regulation. Specifically, the point is made that behavioral outcome depends on the resources available to the child and the demands for behavioral and emotional self-regulation of a particular situation.