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Longitudinal Relations Among Language Skills, Anger Expression, and Regulatory Strategies in Early Childhood


  • This research was supported by the National Institute on Mental Health with R01-061388 awarded to the second author, the first and third authors' fellowships on T32-070327 (PI: Pamela M. Cole), and an individual fellowship F31-088015 to the first author, and by the National Institute on Child Health & Human Development with an individual fellowship F31-063318 to the third author. We thank Keith Crnic and Clancy Blair for their contributions to the study and comments on early versions of this manuscript. We also thank the many graduate and undergraduate students who contributed to the data collection and reduction, as well as the commitment and contributions of the families that participated.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Pamela M. Cole, Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, 141 Moore Building, University Park, PA 16802. Electronic mail may be sent to


Researchers have suggested that as children's language skill develops in early childhood, it comes to help children regulate their emotions (Cole, Armstrong, & Pemberton, 2010; Kopp, 1989), but the pathways by which this occurs have not been studied empirically. In a longitudinal study of 120 children from 18 to 48 months of age, associations among child language skill, observed anger expression, and regulatory strategies during a delay task were examined. Toddlers with better language skill, and whose language skill increased more over time, appeared less angry at 48 months and their anger declined more over time. Two regulatory strategies, support seeking and distraction, explained a portion of the variance in the association between language skill and anger expression after toddlerhood.