Inhibitory Control, Harsh Discipline, and Externalizing Problems among Chinese, Japanese, and U.S. 4-Year-Olds

Based mostly on findings in Western societies, it has been theorized that deficiencies in children’s inhibitory control, plus harsh parenting, lead to elevated levels of externalizing problems. To compare associations between these variables for children in Western and Asian societies, Olson et al. (2011) administered tests of inhibitory control to 155 4-year-olds attending preschools in Beijing, Tokyo, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. The children’s mothers completed the CBCL/1.5-5 and questionnaires assessing their disciplinary practices. In all three countries, low levels of inhibitory control by the children and their mothers’ reports of harsh disciplinary practices independently contributed to high scores for externalizing problems on the CBCL/1.5-5. Consequently, the authors concluded that the findings supported an additive model whereby children’s inhibitory control and maternal discipline each affect externalizing problems and that both factors together may contribute to higher levels of problems than if only one factor is present.

Reference: Olson, S.L., Tardif, T.Z., Miller, A., Felt, B., Grabell, A.S., Kessler, D., Wang, L., Karasawa, M., & Hirabayashi, H. (2011). Inhibitory control and harsh discipline as predictors of externalizing problems in young children: A comparative study of U.S., Chinese, and Japanese preschoolers. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39, 1163-1175.