It was proposed that the interaction between the constructs of emotion regulation and social interaction would predict social adaptation in preschoolers. Ninety-six 4-year-olds were observed in quartets of unfamiliar same-sex peers. Based on parent temperament ratings and observed free play behaviors, 68 children from the original sample were classified as: low social interaction, good emotion regulators; low social interaction, poor emotion regulators; high social interaction, good emotion regulators; high social interaction, poor emotion regulators; or average. The results indicated that the low social interaction children who were poor regulators displayed more wary and anxious behaviors during free play and other episodes, and were rated as having more internalizing problems than both the low social interaction children who were good regulators and the average group. The high social interaction children who were poor regulators were rated as having more externalizing problems than either the high social interaction children who were good regulators or the average group. Thus, it seems as if emotion dysregulation is associated with psychological maladaptation, but that this association is tempered by the degree to which children engage in social interaction.
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