Academic journal article International Education Studies

Self-Regulation in Children and Minors in Institutional Care

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Self-Regulation in Children and Minors in Institutional Care

Article excerpt


The study deals with self-regulation in children and minors (aged 11 to 19 years) living in so-called "total institutions". It examines the degree of self-regulation of behaviour from the perspective of the children and minors themselves and from the perspective of their key workers. Children and minors and their key workers differ significantly in perception of the wards' self-regulation of behaviour in the short and long-term context. The lowest rate of self-regulation in children and minors in institutional care is reflected in the area of regulation of emotions. The results point to certain specificity of the institutional care environment.

Keywords: self-regulation, children and minors, institutional care, social environment, key workers

1. Theoretical Background

Contemporary society has been facing a number of issues that share a common denominator. Alcoholism, crime, drug addiction, educational underachievement, gambling, eating disorders, anger management issues, debt and bankruptcy are problems that affect the whole society even though they represent the failure of an individual. An individual who experiences problems in a certain area of life may realise the consequences of their own behaviour, however ultimately they lose control over their own lives, failing in the self-regulation of their behaviour (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008).

Self-regulation refers to the capacity of the self to alter one's behaviour (Baumeister & Vohs, 2007). Zimmerman (2005) states that self-regulation is directly connected with the goal of social acceptance. Self-regulation (as one of the intrapersonal skills) is the ability to flexibly activate, monitor, inhibit, persevere and/or adapt one's behaviour, attention, emotions and cognitive strategies in response to direction from internal cues, environmental stimuli and feedback from others, in an attempt to attain personally-relevant goals (Moilanen, 2007; Demetriou, 2005; Novak & Clayton, 2001). This flexibility allows people to adjust to societal and situational demands that they encounter on a daily basis (Baumeister & Vohs, 2007). Specifically, self-regulation places one's "social conscience" over selfish impulses, allowing people to do what is right and not what they want to do (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008).

The ability to regulate one's own behaviour is dependent on the temporal context in which it takes place (Barkley, 1997; Moilanen, 2007). Temporal frames are crucial for a conflict to emerge between immediate benefits or future costs. Control or regulation of one's own behaviour and emotions in the immediate context in order to attain long-term goals requires special efforts which in conjunction with other preconditions (personal standards, willpower, motivation, strategies or monitoring) play a crucial role in the process of self-regulation.

When talking about regulation of self, i.e. an internal intention to change one's own behaviour, it is of primary importance to identify one's own intention. The change begins with identifying one's own expectation, i.e. a personal goal. These objectives, which are interpreted from the outside world, must first be individualised, i.e. converted into a structure of one's own possibilities, abilities, motives, needs and experiences. The ability to convert such external requirements into individual goals is a fundamental prerequisite for successful self-regulation. Another prerequisite of self-regulation is self-regulatory strength, or willpower. The process leading to the change of oneself is a difficult one and therefore it requires certain power. Due to our own will and determination, we are able to persevere and not give up when overcoming obstacles. The effort made for a specific activity, i.e. the change, is dependent on the experience/enjoyment of the activity. Highly enjoyable moments, the ones Csikszentmihalyi (1990) calls "flow experiences", make us feel completely absorbed in the activity alone so that we do not feel the need for any extra effort to perform the activity. …

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