Academic journal article The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy

Current Issues in Self-Regulation Research and Their Significance for Therapeutic Intervention in Offender Groups

Academic journal article The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy

Current Issues in Self-Regulation Research and Their Significance for Therapeutic Intervention in Offender Groups

Article excerpt

In the preface of the handbook of emotional regulation (Gross, 2007), the editor reviews citation trends for the term "emotion regulation" in the scientific literature. From the early 1980s until today there has been an approximately fivefold increase in citations each 5-year period (Gross, 2007, p. xii). This trend is likely to continue, and a similar development is seen when searching for self-regulation. While there is no full and comprehensive answer to why this is , part this boom might be due to the fact that the field of self- and emotional self-regulation cuts across traditional subdisciplinary boundaries. During the last 20 years, there has been a considerable accumulation of knowledge in biological, cognitive, developmental, personality, social, and clinical health domains, and all of these have something to say about self regulation, or vice versa, the growing field of self-regulation draws upon findings made in these disciplines. There has also been significant progress in the development of research tools that make it possible to look at self-regulation from a non-traditional point of view, e.g. functional brain imaging techniques, or high speed computers which enable researchers to devise elaborate experimental research designs. While findings are accumulating, it is not always clear what they actually mean. Researchers often disagree about the meaning of self-regulation, and they tend to have a rather idiosyncratic understanding of the conceptual framework they are working in. Instead of adding yet one more definition to the many that already exist, I adhere to the concept introduced by Gross (2007), who offers a framework useful for both generating research ideas and the theoretical understanding of contemporary research on this topic. Self-regulation is thus understood as a generic term specifying both states and processes within a system of conscious and unconscious personal health management. More precisely, it refers to the regulation of stress, moods, thoughts, attention and impulses such as hunger, aggression, sexual arousal, and, of course, emotions. Emotional (self) regulation might be conceptualized as a subcomponent of a variety of self-regulatory processes. There is reason to assume, however, that there is a common denominator of the regulation of different response domains, and that the processes by which behavioral responses are modulated, do not differ across domains (Ochner & Gross, 2005). The process model introduced by Gross (1998) highlights five families of regulation strategies that apply to emotional processes. While he focuses on the regulation of emotions, these strategies might be ubiquitous in that they are probably shared by other processes subsumed under the heading of self-regulation. These are situation selection (taking actions that make it more or less likely that a person will end up in situation she expects will give rise to desirable or undesirable emotions); situation modification (comprising efforts to directly modify the situation so as to alter its emotional impact); attentional deployment (refers to how individuals direct their attention within a given situation in order to influence their emotions); cognitive change (refers to changing how a person appraises the situation she is in to alter its emotional significance, either by changing how she thinks about the situation or about her capacity to manage the demands it poses); and response modulation (refers to influencing physiological, experiential, or behavioral responding as directly as possible ).

Major approaches to the study of self -regulation

Central themes include the ways people regulate both positive and negative emotions, the role of conscious and unconscious processes, and the costs and benefits of regulatory strategies in different contexts.

Researchers have focussed on basic regulatory processes investigating underlying biological bases and processes, drawing from the cumulating knowledge in the cognitive neuroscience of self-regulation (e. …

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