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  • Cited by 5
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: July 2009

1 - Conceptual Issues in Studying the Development of Self-Regulation


The romantic myth of literary genius which has long promoted an effortless and unfathomable Shakespeare, cannot easily accommodate a model of a Shakespeare whose greatness was a product of labor as much as talent. The humbler portrait of Shakespeare…is of a writer who knew himself, knew his audience, and knew what worked.

(Shapiro, 2005, p. 303)

The capacity for self-regulation is a hallmark of successful development. People engage in a variety of interactions with the physical, cognitive, and social world that require responsiveness to the actions of others while at the same time making a variety of choices. The agentic aspect of this engagement is understood as self-regulation. Although the construct of self-regulation originated in general systems theories whose concern was the complexity of bidirectional part-whole relationships in biology and physics, the adoption of the construct by developmental psychologists has tended to isolate the part from the whole, so that regulation is seen as a trait of the individual, rather than the result of the individual's experience with the context of development. Understanding self-regulation as intertwined with experiences in the social context will produce more accurate scientific predictions as well as more efficient intervention programs to improve children's behavioral problems.

Human self-regulation ultimately means knowing one's self, knowing one's context, and knowing how to interact with that context to achieve individual goals.

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