The role of joint attention, social cognition, and self-regulation in the development of social competence: A study of at-risk children

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Peter Mundy, Committee Chair


Children in a center-based intervention program were assessed for joint attention skills, social-cognitive abilities, self-regulatory skills, and teacher ratings of prosocial and problem behaviors. Joint attention and other nonverbal communication behaviors were assessed at 12, 15, and 18 months of age. Social cognition, self-regulation, and behavioral outcome ratings were assessed at 36 months of age. Analyses revealed that individual differences in changing rates of initiating joint attention over the second year predicted teacher-rated prosocial behaviors at 36 months. This relation was not mediated by either language or IQ. Responding to joint attention, averaged over the second year, also predicted prosocial outcomes. Together, responding to and initiating joint attention explained 30% of the variance in later prosocial outcomes. Thus, higher rates of joint attention in the second year predicted positive social behavior at three years of age. In contrast, nonverbal requesting acts in the second year predicted disruptive behaviors at age 36 months, with higher rates of nonverbal requesting in infancy predicted higher ratings of disruptive behaviors.


Psychology, Behavioral; Psychology, Social; Psychology, Developmental

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