A Structured Observation of Behavioral Self-Regulation and Its Contribution to Kindergarten Outcomes

Claire Cameron Ponitz, Megan M. McClelland, J. S. Matthews, Frederick J. Morrison

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601 Scopus citations


The authors examined a new assessment of behavioral regulation and contributions to achievement and teacher-rated classroom functioning in a sample (N = 343) of kindergarteners from 2 geographical sites in the United States. Behavioral regulation was measured with the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders (HTKS) task, a structured observation requiring children to perform the opposite of a dominant response to 4 different oral commands. Results revealed considerable variability in HTKS scores. Evidence for construct validity was found in positive correlations with parent ratings of attentional focusing and inhibitory control and teacher ratings of classroom behavioral regulation. Hierarchical linear modeling indicated that higher levels of behavioral regulation in the fall predicted stronger levels of achievement in the spring and better teacher-rated classroom self-regulation (all ps < .01) but not interpersonal skills. Evidence for domain specificity emerged, in which gains in behavioral regulation predicted gains in mathematics but not in language and literacy over the kindergarten year (p < .01) after site, child gender, and other background variables were controlled. Discussion focuses on the importance of behavioral regulation for successful adjustment to the demands of kindergarten.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-619
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009


  • academic achievement
  • behavioral self-regulation
  • interpersonal skills
  • kindergarten
  • structured observation


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