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Self‐control, peer preference, and loneliness in Chinese children: A three‐year longitudinal study

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Social Development

Published online on


The purpose of this study was to explore the longitudinal links among Chinese children's self‐control, social experiences, and loneliness, largely from a developmental cascades perspective (which postulates mechanisms about how effects within a particular domain of functioning can impact across additional domains over time). Participants were N = 1,066 primary school students in Shanghai, P. R. China, who were followed over three years from Grade 3 to Grade 5. Measures of children's behavioral self‐control, peer preference, and loneliness were obtained each year from peer nominations and child self‐reports. Results indicated that as compared with the unidirectional and bidirectional models, the developmental cascade model represented the best fit for the data. Within this model, a number of significant direct and indirect pathways were identified among variables and over time. For example, self‐control was found to indirectly contribute to later decreases in loneliness via a pathway through peer preference. As well, peer preference both directly and indirectly contributed to later increases in self‐control. Finally, loneliness directly led to decreases in self‐control from Grade 3 to Grade 4, but not from Grade 4 to Grade 5. Results are discussed in terms of the implications of self‐control for Chinese children's social and emotional functioning over time.