Understanding the Parent-Child Coregulation Patterns Shaping Child Self-Regulation

Frances M. Lobo, Erika Lunkenheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Parent– child coregulation, thought to support children’s burgeoning regulatory capacities, is the process by which parents and their children regulate one another through their goal-oriented behavior and expressed affect. Two particular coregulation patterns— dyadic contingency and dyadic flexibility— appear beneficial in early childhood, but their role in the typical development of self-regulation is not yet clear. The present study examined whether dynamic parent– child patterns of dyadic contingency and dyadic flexibility in both affect and goal-oriented behavior (e.g., discipline, compliance) predicted multiple components of preschoolers’ self-regulation. Mother– child dyads (N = 100) completed structured and unstructured dyadic tasks in the laboratory at age 3, and mothers completed child selfregulation measures at age 4. Findings showed that more flexible and contingent affective parent– child processes, as long as the affective content was primarily positive or neutral, predicted higher levels of self-regulation in early childhood. However, when dyads engaged in more negative affective and behavioral content, higher levels of affective and behavioral contingency and behavioral flexibility predicted lower levels of child self-regulation. Findings suggest parent– child coregulation processes play a meaningful role in children’s typical regulatory development and that parent– child coregulation patterns can be potentially adaptive or maladaptive for child outcomes depending on the content of the interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1121-1134
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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