ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2019, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (2): 230-241.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2019.00230

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The developmental mechanisms of self-regulation in young children

ZHANG Qing1, DONG Shuyang1,2, WANG Zhengyan1()   

  1. 1 Department of Psychology, Center for Child Development, Learning and Cognitive Key Laboratory, Capital Normal University, Beijing 100048, China
    2 Utrecht University, the Netherlands
  • Received:2018-01-09 Online:2019-02-15 Published:2018-12-25
  • Contact: WANG Zhengyan


Self-regulation is important for young children considering its profound relations with later mental health and social and cognitive competence. Although psychologists pay much attention to self-regulation for more than 100 years with the aim to investigate individual’s optimal development, the structure of self-regulation and its developmental mechanisms in early ages are still unclear. Following the chronological sequence of the literature, this review shows that the different research perspectives on self-regulation in young children have integrated twice: (1) From 2000 to 2010, researchers attempted to integrate several mainstream perspectives of self-regulation in last century. For example, Kochanska’s model (2006) focused on combining the viewpoints of temperamental and behavioral self-regulation; Calkins’s model (2002) focused on combining the viewpoints of physiological, attentional and emotional self-regulation; and Feldman (2009) constructed a multilevel interdisciplinary model of self-regulation from infancy to preschool ages. (2) In the latest decade, psychologists started to call for the fusion of two research directions and investigate young children’s self-regulation comprehensively. Those two directions are temperamental mechanism of self-regulation—effortful control and “higher-ordered” cognitive mechanism of self-regulation—executive function. After summarizing the previous representative models, the current study further presents a developmental hierarchical-integrative perspective of self-regulation in young children: a physiology-emotion-attention-based and temperament-behavior-cognition-modulated model.

Key words: self-regulation, young children, developmental mechanism

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