Newsletter Article

How do children cope with disadvantage, stress, and family disruption?

Photo of Liliana LenguaMarch 3, 2010, 7-9pm, Kane Hall Room 120

Liliana Lengua, Professor: A Clinical Perspective

Self-control is a critical skill that underlies children’s development of social and emotional competence. It is also a key predictor of young children’s school readiness and academic success. Children growing up in economically disadvantaged contexts are at risk for having lower self-control. Professor Lengua’s research is aimed at understanding the reasons for this and at identifying what parents can do to foster better self-control and competence in their children.

Economic hardship can affect multiple aspects of a family’s life, increasing the likelihood of stressful events, residential changes, and other disruptions. These challenging conditions may affect preschool children’s developing self-control by the effects they have on children’s stress physiology. Professor Lengua studies how problems of children’s neuroendocrine system – their stress hormones – might play a role in children’s developing self-control.

A major focus of Professor Lengua’s research is studying the things parents and families can do to maintain a positive family climate in the face of life’s challenges. Her research has shown that the reactions parents have towards stressful events play a critical role in promoting self-control in their children. Families experiencing significant strain may have difficulty maintaining positive family relationships. There can be increased conflict, distress and demoralization among family members. In turn, this can make parenting difficult. Conversely, when families are able to maintain positive parenting behaviors in the face of strain, children can be buffered from the effects of stress.

For more information on Professor Lengua’s research, visit her websites at:

Dr. Phil Fisher [(Clinical) Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon] will be joining Dr. Lengua for the March 3, 2010 lecture.