Inhibitory control and teacher-child conflict: Reciprocal associations across the elementary-school years

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In the present study, longitudinal data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development were used to test a theoretical model in which one aspect of children's self-regulation skills - their inhibitory-control abilities - were hypothesized to show reciprocal relations with their levels of teach of teacher-child across the elementary-school years. The findings were largely consistent with the hypothesized model. Across multiple points in elementary school, lower levels of inhibitory control were associated with higher subsequent levels of teacher-child conflict. In turn, higher levels of teacher-child conflict were associated with lower subsequent levels of inhibitory control. Some evidence suggested that the magnitude of this latter relation was particularly strong for girls in the later elementary-school years. Direct relations between inhibitory control and teacher-child conflict were partially mediated by children's inattention and aggression problems. Potential implications for theory and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-76
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Chronologically, different stages of this research were supported by the Julius B. Richmond Fellowship granted by Harvard University Center on the Developing Child , a dissertation fellowship granted by the Spencer Foundation , and post-doctoral research support provided by Dr. Clancy Blair (NIH R01 HD051502 and New York University, Institute of Human Development and Social Change ). This research would not have been possible without the work of the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network and research staff, who designed and implemented the overall study or the dedicated children, families, and teachers who participated. I would like to thank Peter Blake, Clancy Blair, Joanna Christodoulou, Kathleen McCartney, Stephanie Jones, Scott Seider, and John Willett for their thoughtful reviews of prior versions of this manuscript.


  • Aggression problems
  • Attention problems
  • Inhibitory control
  • Self-regulation
  • Teacher-child conflict


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