Annual Research Review: On the relations among self-regulation, self-control, executive functioning, effortful control, cognitive control, impulsivity, risk-taking, and inhibition for developmental psychopathology

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

229 Scopus citations


Background: Self-regulation (SR) is central to developmental psychopathology, but progress has been impeded by varying terminology and meanings across fields and literatures. Methods: The present review attempts to move that discussion forward by noting key sources of prior confusion such as measurement-concept confounding, and then arguing the following major points. Results: First, the field needs a domain-general construct of SR that encompasses SR of action, emotion, and cognition and involves both top-down and bottom-up regulatory processes. This does not assume a shared core process across emotion, action, and cognition, but is intended to provide clarity on the extent of various claims about kinds of SR. Second, top-down aspects of SR need to be integrated. These include (a) basic processes that develop early and address immediate conflict signals, such as cognitive control and effortful control (EC), and (b) complex cognition and strategies for addressing future conflict, represented by the regulatory application of complex aspects of executive functioning. Executive function (EF) and cognitive control are not identical to SR because they can be used for other activities, but account for top-down aspects of SR at the cognitive level. Third, impulsivity, risk-taking, and disinhibition are distinct although overlapping; a taxonomy of the kinds of breakdowns of SR associated with psychopathology requires their differentiation. Fourth, different aspects of the SR universe can be organized hierarchically in relation to granularity, development, and time. Low-level components assemble into high-level components. This hierarchical perspective is consistent across literatures. Conclusions: It is hoped that the framework outlined here will facilitate integration and cross-talk among investigators working from different perspectives, and facilitate individual differences research on how SR relates to developmental psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2016



  • Attention
  • Executive function
  • Impulsivity
  • Self-control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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