How Do Acute and Chronic Stress Impact the Development of Self-Regulation?

Publication Date: February 17, 2017


This brief summarizes key concepts of self-regulation and stress and presents findings from a literature review on the relationship between stress and self-regulation.

The comprehensive review, which included 394 studies, yielded the following key findings:

  • Experiments in laboratory animals establish the biologically toxic effects of stress on indicators of self-regulation.
  • Strong associations between stress and self-regulation exist across a range of human development studies using a variety of self-report and observational methods.
  • There is a well-established link between parenting and development of self-regulation in childhood.
  • A variety of individual and environmental characteristics in addition to parenting may influence stress responsivity.
  • It is likely that parenting and family factors, the environment, and individual biological characteristics interact in complex ways to influence how stress impacts self-regulation.

The highlights in this brief come from the Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress: A Review of Ecological, Biological, and Developmental Studies of Self-Regulation and Stress report.

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