Behavioral inhibition and behavioral activation in young children: Relations with self-regulation and adaptation to preschool in children attending head start

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We examine a parent-report version of the measure of behavioral inhibition and behavioral activation of Carver and White (1994), the BIS/BAS scales. Participants included 42 children (mean age = 4 years, 9 months) attending Head Start programs. Information was collected on aspects of physiological and cognitive regulation, temperamental emotionality, BIS/BAS sensitivity, and teacher report of social competence and on-task behavior in the classroom. Physiological regulation was assessed by cardiac vagal tone and was measured during a baseline period and during the administration of a mildly effortful cognitive task. Cognitive regulation was assessed by executive function and was measured using two tasks that require children to inhibit a prepotent response while remembering and executing the rule for correct responding. Parents reported on behavioral inhibition and behavioral activation and aspects of child negative emotionality associated with fear and anger. Results indicated that the BIS scale was positively related to teacher reported social competence but negatively related to on-task behavior. Associations between the BIS and each of the outcome variables were independent of relations of physiological and cognitive regulation to outcomes and were present when relations between fearful emotionality and the outcomes were not. No relations were observed between any of the BAS scales and the outcome measures. Results recommend the application of neurobiological and psychophysiological approaches to the study of children's adaptation to preschool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-311
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003



  • Preschool
  • Self-regulation
  • Temperament

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Embryology
  • Psychology(all)

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