Well-regulated attention, memory, and emotion processes are critical to healthy cognitive and social-emotional development in childhood and beyond. Although we know that from infancy into middle childhood, nearly all children show dramatic improvements in their regulation of these cognitive and emotion processes, the etiology of individual differences in this developmental progression is poorly understood. Current theory postulates that biopsychosocial mechanisms are most likely involved and, in particular, that optimal development of self-regulated cognition and emotion is promoted not only by certain complements of genes associated with frontal lobe architecture and development, but also by co-occurring socialization experiences within the family. We propose that the socialization experiences critical to well-regulated child outcomes go beyond maternal warmth and scaffolding to include the influence of maternal executive functioning. This application is a renewal request for a longitudinal study (HD049878) examining developing interrelations between cognition and emotion from infancy through early childhood in a typically developing sample. The unique feature of our current study is that it grounds cognition-emotion relations within a psychobiological theoretical framework focusing on physiological as well as behavioral indices of cognition, emotion, and their integration. We request funds to extend our study to middle childhood and include academic achievements as outcome measures of individual differences in self-regulation. Our goal for the renewal study is twofold. We will complement our on-going examination of the role of maternal scaffolding and socialization behaviors with examination of the role of maternal executive functioning. We will focus on these maternal contributions to the processes of child cognition-emotion integration in middle childhood and resulting individual differences in academic achievement. There are studies of early childhood self-regulation and effects of preschool cognition on middle childhood academic achievement, but no studies of developing patterns of infant, toddler, and preschool cognition-emotion (behavioral and physiological) contributions to school achievement in middle childhood. We will test models of cognition-emotion development across four developmental periods, as well as examine patterns of developmental trajectories in cognition and emotion that may have implications for various levels of academic achievement. The longitudinal design and psychobiological conceptual framework make our proposed work novel and critical for understanding individual differences in child academic outcomes and in general mental health development.

Public Health Relevance

Although the care giving environment has been given an essential role in social development, little attention has been given to the role of care giving in the development of complex cognitions, which are associated with school achievement, including reading and math. Because of these critical outcomes, there is a need to examine the development of normative child cognitive development in light of maternal socio-emotional and higher order cognitive processing.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Biobehavioral Mechanisms of Emotion, Stress and Health Study Section (MESH)
Program Officer
Freund, Lisa S
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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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