Academic problems, antisocial behaviors, and substance use in adolescence take a heavy toll on individuals and society. Temperament traits, particularly emotionality and self-regulation, have been linked to both academic and behavioral outcomes in childhood and adolescence, but the reasons for this association are not well understood. A growing research literature indicates that children's experiences in key social contexts play a significant role. Yet, most studies of child temperament and adjustment have considered children's experiences only within a single context. While critically important, such studies do not fully capture the complexity of systems theories of development which clearly posit multiple social contexts operating simultaneously in interaction with the person to affect subsequent development and adjustment. Thus, we do not know how children's experiences across multiple contexts combine with early temperament to influence their developmental outcomes, especially in adolescence. Without such information, opportunities for prevention efforts that target critical social contexts may be missed. The overarching goal of this application is to advance knowledge of the developmental processes linking early temperament to adolescent academic problems and health risk behaviors. We will test a set of novel models of the complex interrelations between children's early temperament and their experience in multiple social contexts during childhood to determine how temperament and quality of support from family, peers, and school combine to predict levels of academic and behavioral risk in adolescence. Specifically, the project will leverage statistical advances in longitudinal data analysis in conjunction with existing high quality longitudinal data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) to illuminate developmental pathways leading to academic problems, antisocial behavior, and substance use in adolescence. Accomplishing these goals will advance our theoretical understanding of the developmental underpinnings of these adolescent risks. The results will have important implications for prevention and intervention programs by illuminating points of entry for context-based prevention programs designed to reduce academic problems, antisocial behaviors, and substance use.
This project will illuminate the processes in childhood that lead to the development of poor academic achievement, antisocial behavior, and substance use, important public health issues. The findings will inform interventions designed to prevent or reduce academic failure and health risk behavior in adolescence.