Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Jaime Dice

Abstract

Literature supports a relationship between attachment style and emotional regulation (Panfile & Laible, 2012; Waters, Virmani, Thompson, Meyer, & Jochem, 2010; Mikulincer, & Shaver, 2005; Cassidy, 1994). Research also indicates that emotional regulation is linked to cognitive and behavioral regulation (Garner & Waajid, 2012; Denham, Bassett, Way, Mincic, Zinsser, & Graling, 2012; Tarullo, Obradovic, & Gunnar, 2009; Ramani, Brownell, & Campbell, 2010; Raver, Garner, & Smith-Donald, 2007). However, existing literature surrounding attachment theory and various components of self-regulation is limited. The paucity of information available and lack of consensus about the definition of cognitive and behavioral regulation make them difficult constructs to examine. Furthermore, a relationship between attachment status and salient self-regulation abilities has never been studied individually. Insecurely attached infants have a harder time achieving emotional, behavioral and cognitive regulation when compared to their secure counterparts. This study examines the relationship between attachment status and self-regulation at preschool age by analyzing data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study -Birth Cohort. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort is the most recent longitudinal data set that captures socio-emotional as well as physical development in a variety of caregiver settings for young children (Sparks, 2009; Kotelchuck, 2009; Paulson, Keef, & Leiferman, 2009). Attachment was measured using the Toddler Attachment Sort-45 (Bimler & Kirkland, 2002; Kirkland, Bimler, Drawneek, McKim, Schölmerich, & Axel, 2004). Emotional, behavioral, and cognitive elements of self-regulation at preschool age were measured in Early Care and Education Provider interviews that incorporated elements of socio-emotional development in the context of the environment. The final sample contained 2,650 children. Results indicated that self-regulation is significantly related to attachment status at preschool age. Securely attached preschoolers have overall higher self-regulation scores in most domains than insecurely attached preschoolers. Analysis of Covariance between self-regulation types and attachment style revealed significant relationships between secure attachment and high levels of emotional, behavioral, and cognitive regulation. Furthermore, pair wise comparisons revealed that ambivalent attached preschoolers have low levels of emotional self-regulation when compared to their secure and avoidant attached counterparts. Pairwise comparisons between attachment groups and self-regulation measures also revealed that avoidant attached infants experience low levels of cognitive regulation. The implications of these results are addressed in the discussion.

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