NIH Grant to Fund Study of Preschoolers’ Behavior

Project Will Gauge Children's Capacity for Impulse Control and Self-Regulation

Nov. 12, 2009

Dr. Margaret T. Owen, professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and director of the Center for Children and Families, has received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study preschoolers living in Dallas.

Owen, along with research colleague Dr. Margaret O. Caughy of the University of Texas School of Public Health, received a $1.2 million, two-year grant from the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Owen and Caughy will study self-regulation and race/ethnic disparities in school readiness among the preschoolers.

The research team will visit the preschoolers in their homes to assess their abilities to regulate and control their impulses and behavior from ages 2½ to 4 years, a period of time in which they are rapidly acquiring these skills and abilities.

Various activities will be used to test the children. Researchers will observe their behavior when they are asked to walk along a line slowly. They will also see how the children react when they are told to wait before touching an enticing toy or to wait until a bell is rung before they can eat a favorite food.

“These skills are associated with children’s ability to become more self-reliant learners who show better academic achievement in school,” said Owen.

The study will also measure the children’s receptive language and school readiness skills, including their understanding of numbers, colors and shapes. In addition, Owen and Caughy will examine parenting values and practices associated with the development of self-regulation and school readiness.

The researchers will recruit 360 preschoolers from the Continuity Care Clinic of Children’s Medical Center in Dallas and from various neighborhood recruitment efforts in South Dallas, Oak Cliff and Northwest Dallas. Half of the participants are expected to be Spanish speaking.

“We hope to secure additional funding in a couple years to follow the children’s development as they transition to school and observe how these early skills support their academic achievement,” said Owen.


Media Contacts: Teala Miller, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu
or Debra Brown, UT Dallas, (214) 905-3049, debra@utdallas.edu

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Margaret OwenMargaret Caughy

Dr. Margaret T. Owen (left) of UT Dallas is collaborating with Dr. Margaret O. Caughy of the UT School of Public Health.

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