Year

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Psychology

Abstract

This Doctoral Thesis presents findings from a series of studies that investigate the relationships of children’s early social, emotional and behavioural development and environmental factors with their later life (academic and non-academic) outcomes in adolescence. Using Ecological Systems Theory as a framework, the studies follow the children’s development up to 10 years later, investigating outcomes in primary and secondary school. Data for the research were drawn from large national longitudinal datasets. Particularly, Studies 1 and 3 drew data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC; N = 10,090). Study 2 used data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS; N = 18,552) in the UK. Statistical analyses included linear and logistic regressions, and structural equation modelling. Results of these studies found that child self-regulation at age 4–5 years was a consistent and robust predictor of both academic (e.g., literacy, numeracy) and non-academic outcomes (e.g., substance use, bullying risky behaviours) up to a decade later. Self-regulation not only predicted an adolescent’s participation in negative behaviours (e.g., substance use, bullying, self-injurious behaviours), but also their age of commencement and frequency. In addition to self-regulation, the child’s home learning environment was a consistent predictor of early self-regulatory behaviours at age 4–5 years and academic outcomes in primary and secondary school. Other socio-emotional factors (i.e., emotional problems, peer problems) added some, but less consistent, explanatory value for both academic and non-academic outcomes. Findings emphasise the importance of early ‘non-cognitive’ (e.g., social, emotional) development in early childhood education and care. These results also point to viable targets for early prevention, intervention and education.

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