Predicting academic competence in elementary school from children's early temperamental approach reactivity and effortful control
Researchers who have previously explored the relation of broad-based temperamental approach constructs, such as surgency/extraversion, exuberance, or behavioral approach sensitivity, to academic competence (AC) in early elementary school have often found conflicting results. Moreover, few researchers have examined the interaction between these approach reactivity constructs and effortful control (EC) in the prediction of AC. The goal of the current study was to examine the fine-tuned relations of different aspects of temperamental approach reactivity in early childhood (42 and 54 months; N=223), such as impulsivity, frustration, and positive affect, as well as EC, to AC during early elementary school (72 and 84 months). Examining the complex relations may clarify the literature using broad-based approach reactivity constructs. Temperament was observed in the laboratory when children were 54 months of age. Mothers and caregivers also reported on children's impulsivity at 42 and 54 months. School-related behavioral adjustment was reported by children, mothers, and teachers, and GPA was reported by teachers at 72 and 84 months. The results of the study indicated that positive affect, EC, and receptive language ability were the only unique direct predictors of school adjustment and/or GPA. Without EC in the model, only positive affect and vocabulary predicted AC. Frustration, positive affect, and impulsivity each interacted with EC to predict AC outcomes, such EC was only related to higher AC for children with high impulsivity or anger, or low positive affect. Additionally, positive affect and impulsivity interacted to predict GPA, such that impulsivity was positively related to GPA for children with high positive affect, but it was negatively, albeit nonsignificantly, associated with GPA for children with low positive affect. These results were found to be similar for boys and girls. Finding are discussed in terms of the developmental importance of early EC for academic competence for children who have high approach reactivity, as well as the interactive effects of dimensions of approach reactivity on academic achievement.