Associations between the home environment, parenting and self-regulation in early childhood

Year: 2019

Author: Pino-Pasternak, Deborah, Abreu Malpique, Anabela, Valcan, Debora

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

It has now been well established that a positive transition to school requires young students to self-regulate their cognition, motivation, emotions, and prosocial behaviours so that their efforts are directed to the achievement of adaptive learning and social goals. It is also well known that children differ markedly on the development of such skills at the start of school and that this variation is associated with both within-child as well as environmental variables. This paper discusses empirical findings of a study in Western Australia investigating associations between caregiver-reported home environment, reported parenting, teacher reported measures of self-regulation in the classroom, and children’s academic achievement during the first year of schooling. A sample of 98 dyads (parent-child) participated in this study. Children (51% female, mean age = 5 years, 8 months) belonged primarily to nuclear and English speaking families. Parental behaviours, home environment, and demographic variables were reported by parents; student cognitive and social regulation was reported by classroom teachers; and children’s academic outcomes were directly assessed through well-established measures of word reading, mathematical reasoning, and letter writing automaticity.

Through a set of partial correlations associations between parental behaviours (i.e., closeness, conflict, autonomy support, and control) and features of the home environment (i.e., shared activity in the home and chaos) were first investigated. The findings indicate that caregivers who reported more positive parenting, marked by greater warmth and autonomy-granting behaviours, also reported less negative parenting, characterised by negative affect and harsh control. In relation to the features of the home environment, parents living in households with lower levels of chaos or disorganisation engaged more often with their children in educational and playful activities, displayed more autonomy support, and less negativity and control. Associations between parenting, home-environment variables, children’s cognitive and social regulation, and children’s academic outcomes, were investigated subsequently. Results showed that autonomy supportive parenting was positively associated with both social and cognitive regulation, while the opposite was observed for parent-child conflict. As expected, social regulation was associated with cognitive regulation and this dimension was positively correlated to all assessed academic outcomes.

The findings of this study illustrate the significance of home environments to the development of self-regulation in Early Childhood. Moreover, they suggest that interventions integrating efforts of home and school at the start of schooling could instrumenta;l to children’s early school success.