What self-regulation actually is …

Self-regulation has become progressively an interesting and popular topic in psychological science in the last decades. More and more scientists claim the important contribution of self-regulation from early life to adulthood. Self-regulation is a learned behavior that allows us to interact and communicate with other people. Self-regulation is involving the brain’s part known as the Prefrontal Cortex area (Goldberg 2001), which is responsible for executive functions such as emotional and self-regulation, reasoning, judgment, management of impulse and aggression, social skills, etc.

Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science and Medicine defines self-regulation as the regulation of one’s own goal-oriented behavior in lack of external control (Kent, 2006). Another description of self-regulation is an “integrative construct that includes controlling, directing, and planning cognitions, emotions, and behavior” (Lerner et al (2011, 32)). Self-regulation is a multifaceted ability entailing numerous definitions. Though, in our opinion, it can best be defined as the act of managing thoughts and feelings to enable goal-directed actions (Murray et al., 2015).

Self-regulation is considered among the five components of Emotional Intelligence and according to Goleman (2015) is the management of emotions and refers to the “quality of emotional intelligence that liberates us from living like hostages to our impulses”. To gain a better understanding of self-regulation, we can consider it as proactive and inhibit inner process that allows us to project our emotions and behaviors, recognize and comprehend them and finally manage them in a more appropriate way. Managing emotions or impulses does not mean putting aside or oppressing them but evaluate and expressing them more befittingly.

Baumeister et al. (2007) had indicated four components of self-regulation: a) Standards of desirable behavior, b) Motivation to meet standards c) Monitoring of situations and thoughts that precede breaking standards and d) Willpower – internal strength to control urges. Self-regulation has been considered as a key factor in developing personal and interpersonal competence and there is evidence advancing that a high score of self-regulation provides high levels of social competency into early adolescence (e.g., Li, Zhang, & Wang, 2015). Self-regulation is a skill that can be developed starting from the early years and beyond, parents, caregivers are those that interact and scaffold at first, and then the school context plays a significant role in the formation of socialization commitment.


Baumeister R. and Vohs K. (2004). Handbook of Self-Regulation: Research, Theory, and Applications

Baumeister R. and Vohs K. & Tice D. (2007). The Strength Model of Self-Control, in Current Directions in Psychological Science

Murray, D. W., Rosanbalm, K., Christopoulos, C., & Hamoudi, A. (2015). Self-regulation and toxic stress: Foundations for understanding self-regulation from an applied developmental perspective. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration of Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services.

Ramdass, D., & Zimmerman, B. J. (2011). Developing Self-Regulation Skills: The Important Role of Homework. Journal of Advanced Academics, 22(2), 194–218. http://doi:10.1177/1932202×1102200202

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