TitleBidirectionality in self-regulation and academic skills in play-based early childhood education
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsBraak, Dten, Størksen, I, Idsoe, T, McClelland, MM
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Date Published11/2019


  • From a play-context to school: self-regulation and academic skills are interrelated.
  • Self-regulation and mathematics are bidirectionally related.
  • Expressive vocabulary predicts self-regulation, but not the reverse.
  • Self-regulation predicts phonological awareness: attenuated by expressive vocabulary.

Support for the idea that self-regulation and early academic skills co-develop in young children is accumulating. The majority of this research, however, is conducted in countries with a school readiness approach to early childhood education. We investigated bidirectional relations between self-regulation and mathematics, expressive vocabulary, and phonological awareness in children (N = 243, ages 6–7) making the transition from a play-based kindergarten context to a formal educational context in first grade in Norway. Cross-lagged panel models showed that there were bidirectional relations between self-regulation and mathematics, but not between self-regulation and expressive vocabulary or phonological awareness. Expressive vocabulary significantly predicted self-regulation, and self-regulation significantly predicted phonological awareness, although the latter association attenuated when controlling for vocabulary. Given these interrelations, intentionally targeting a combination of these skills in a playful manner may support children's transition from a play-based kindergarten context to a more formal learning environment in first grade.

Short TitleJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology