Self-regulation is a core construct in health research due to its relation to a broad array of child and adult health problems, such as obesity, mental disorders, and heart disease. The breadth of evidence implicating self-regulation in health emerged from varied approaches to its definition and examination. Our work addresses the basic scientific need for greater consistency and integration in how self-regulation is conceptualized, modeled, and measured.

At their core, multiple theoretical perspectives approach self-regulation as the engagement of executive psychological processes to alter readiness to enact a prepotent response. A few further conceptualize self-regulation as a dynamic process that evolves as events unfold and an individual’s goals are adjusted. Working from these principles, we are using the mathematics of dynamic systems to develop a robust framework that bridges theoretical perspectives and links ‘in-the-moment’ manifestations of self-regulation (microgenetic change over moments) with the development of self-regulation (ontogenetic change over years).

Measurement model for prepotent response with blue squares and arrows and within-person dynamic model.