Relations Between Childhood Self-Control And Early Adulthood Outcomes In China: The Contributions Of Social Relationships
Family, Life Course, and Society
The purpose of this longitudinal study was to examine, in a sample of Chinese children, the relations between self-control in early childhood and social, school, behavioral, and psychological adjustment in early adulthood and the roles of social relationships in shaping the relations. Participants were 250 children (120 boys, initially mean age = 2.04 years) in China, who were randomly selected through local birth registration offices in 1996-97. Data on early self-control at 2 years (i.e., delay behavior and behavioral compliance) and on social relationships at 7 years (i.e., maternal support and peer experiences) in middle childhood were collected from multiple sources, including laboratory observations, self- and mother reports, teacher ratings, and peer assessments. In addition, youth adjustment data in early adulthood were measured at 19 years using self-reports, tapping major indices of social (i.e., peer integration and family attitudes), academic (i.e., academic achievement and school effort), behavioral (i.e., externalizing problems and deviant behaviors), and psychological (i.e., self-esteem, depressed affect, and internalizing problems) adjustment. The results showed that the associations between early self-control and youth’s social, school, behavioral, and psychological adjustment were moderated by social relationships in middle childhood. Specifically, early self-control was positively associated with adjustment in children with high maternal support in middle childhood. Self-control was also positively associated with adjustment in children who had negative peer experiences. In addition, middle childhood peer experiences significantly mediated the relations of early self-control to academic adjustment. Regarding gender differences, results showed that social relationships were positively related to several indices of adjustment in girls only. These results indicate the implications of early self-control and middle childhood social relationships for youth’s adjustment in various domains.