Early adolescence represents a key transition period in development yet little is known, particularly for children in rural poverty, about the ways in which trajectories established in early childhood support or constrain the development of self-regulation with implications for key outcomes. Accordingly, we propose to continue to follow a population-based predominantly low-income longitudinal sample known as the Family Life Project (N=1292 oversampled for African American ethnicity and poverty). Extensive child, family, home, and school data were collected through two rounds of funding as an NICHD program project with 11% attrition. Data collection beginning at child age 2mos through age 8yrs occurred in 10 home visits, 5 childcare visits, and 8 school visits. In this follow-up, we continue to focus on child self-regulation and stress response physiology, as well as family, peer, school, and neighborhood contexts measured in the first two phases. Data will be collected in 1 home visit (7th grade) and 2 school visits (6th & 8th grades.) We will test specific hypotheses about the influence of the timing and chronicity of poverty-related adversity in families on the development of stress response physiology and self-regulation from early childhood through early adolescence. Most importantly, we will test hypotheses about the ways in which peer, school, and neighborhood contexts increase or decrease risk for key outcomes, including mental health, substance use, and school achievement. Primary innovation in this phase concerns our ability to test key questions about the malleability of self-regulation development and the role of emerging sensitivity to reward and delay in risk taking behavior in early adolescence. We hypothesize that alterations to the stress response and accompanying self-regulation difficulties will be most severe and most likely to lead to poor outcomes for children facing sustained high levels of poverty-related adversity; however, we also hypothesize that this influence will be moderated by the quality of peer relations, as well as school, and community characteristics. Specifically, for children facing sustained adversity, higher quality peer relatios (taking into account potential bidirectional relations between self-regulation and peer quality, including social isolation and affiliation with deviant peers), higher levels of school quality, an higher levels of neighborhood quality will each be associated with improvements in stress responsivity and in self- regulation abilities, and thereby higher achievement, reduced substance use, and better mental health. To our knowledge this is the first study of its kind to test complex longitudinal relations among adversity, stress response physiology, self-regulation, and key outcomes across multiple geographically and economically defined social contexts in a population-based sample. By testing the malleability of development using a psychobiological model, the proposed research will have clear implications for prevention efforts and efforts to promote positive youth development.

Public Health Relevance

This project addresses a topic of substantial public health relevance, namely the developmental origins of self- regulation difficulties that underlie a wide range of high prevalence conditions that threaten public wellbeing, including mental health disorders, school failure, and early initiation of substance use. It does so using a predominantly low-income, rural sample to examine ways in which peer, school, and neighborhood contexts increase or decrease risk for adverse outcomes associated with self-regulation difficulties.

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
Psychosocial Development, Risk and Prevention Study Section (PDRP)
Program Officer
Griffin, James
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New York University
Schools of Education
New York
United States
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Perry, Rosemarie E; Blair, Clancy; Sullivan, Regina M (2017) Neurobiology of infant attachment: attachment despite adversity and parental programming of emotionality. Curr Opin Psychol 17:1-6
Blair, Clancy; Berry, Daniel J; FLP Investigators (2017) Moderate within-person variability in cortisol is related to executive function in early childhood. Psychoneuroendocrinology 81:88-95
Willoughby, Michael T; Magnus, Brooke; Vernon-Feagans, Lynne et al. (2017) Developmental Delays in Executive Function from 3 to 5 Years of Age Predict Kindergarten Academic Readiness. J Learn Disabil 50:359-372
Blair, Clancy (2017) Educating executive function. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci 8:
Berry, Daniel; Blair, Clancy; Willoughby, Michael et al. (2017) Maternal sensitivity and adrenocortical functioning across infancy and toddlerhood: Physiological adaptation to context? Dev Psychopathol 29:303-317
Blair, Clancy; McKinnon, Rachel D; Family Life Project Investigators (2016) Moderating effects of executive functions and the teacher-child relationship on the development of mathematics ability in kindergarten. Learn Instr 41:85-93
Hibel, Leah C; Granger, Douglas A; Blair, Clancy et al. (2015) Maternal-child adrenocortical attunement in early childhood: continuity and change. Dev Psychobiol 57:83-95
Blair, Clancy; Sulik, Michael; Willoughby, Michael et al. (2015) Catechol-O-methyltransferase Val158met polymorphism interacts with early experience to predict executive functions in early childhood. Dev Psychobiol 57:833-41
Blair, Clancy; Ursache, Alexandra; Greenberg, Mark et al. (2015) Multiple aspects of self-regulation uniquely predict mathematics but not letter-word knowledge in the early elementary grades. Dev Psychol 51:459-72
Sulik, Michael J; Blair, Clancy; Mills-Koonce, Roger et al. (2015) Early Parenting and the Development of Externalizing Behavior Problems: Longitudinal Mediation Through Children's Executive Function. Child Dev 86:1588-603

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