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FOR 5034 (start: 2021)

Self-regulation (SR) is a fundamental psychological resource that permits individuals to adequately respond to situational requirement and to successfully pursue personal goals. Accordingly, SR is associated with a wide range of positive developmental outcomes. To date, research on SR has focused primarily on (pre)school-aged children. However, studying the development of SR and its impact on psychological functioning is particularly relevant during adolescence, when external control (e.g., by parents) gradually diminishes and adolescents need to make important decisions increasingly self-dependent. Additionally, they meet many age-specific developmental requirements, such as developing autonomy or integrating into their peer groups. Finally, a so-called "performance dip" in SR has been observed in adolescence, at least partly attributable to delayed brain development.

Impaired SR is seen as causal to the increase in psychological and lifestyle-related physical problems during adolescence. The main goal of the planned research unit therefore is to study the development and effects of SR from middle childhood to adolescence in 6 individual and one coordinating projects that apply a prospective, multi-method research design incorporating the specific age-related developmental requirements.

An existing prospective longitudinal study with N = 1,657 children who were tested at the age of 6-10, 7-11, and 9-13 years will be continued by adding a further measurement point during late adolescence (15-20 yrs, expected sample size: n = 1,074). The projects will explore continuities and discontinuities in the development of SR, predictors of SR-development patterns, as well as the influences of peers who function as age-specific socializing agents. Regarding the effects of SR, the projects cover a broad range of behavioral areas and developmental requirements, which are new or of particular relevance to this developmental stage. Specifically, this includes antisocial behavior, development of moral and identity, disturbed eating behavior, and internalizing problems. We will analyze the incremental contribution of SR by testing whether SR predicts these outcomes above and beyond other well-established predictors and peer influence. The broad expertise within our Research Unit permits us to in¬vestigate a large number of youth-specific outcomes as well as to adapt a multi-method approach when assessing cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects of SR.

The project uses physiological measurements (heart rate variability), behavioral tests, as well as self- and proxy-reports (questionnaires, interviews). The individual projects draw on one prospective data set; in combination with the complementary expertise of the PIs, this provides fertile ground for synergistic effects. Thus, the Research Unit is well prepared to generate innovative and multifaceted insights into the development and impacts of SR from childhood to adolescence.

Study Protocol

The Research Unit consists of 6 Projects:

P_01: Effects of Self-Regulatory Skills on Moral Behavior and Moral-Related Aspects of Personality in Adolescence

P_02: The influence of peers on the development of self-regulation in class-rooms: A longitudinal multilevel-analysis

P_03: Executive Functions as basic facets of self regulation: Profiles and developmental trajectories in childhood and adolescence, and relations to social information processing

P_04: Self-regulation as a predictor of developmental trajectories of internalising symptoms in the course of middle childhood to adolescence

P_05: The influence of self-regulation and stigmatization on weight and binge eating from middle childhood to adolescence

P_06: Self-Regulatory Skills as well as Internal and External Factors as Predictors of Aggressive and Antisocial Behavior in Adolescence