Self-Regulation Training Approaches and Resources to Improve Staff Capacity for Implementing Healthy Marriage Programs for Youth (SARHM), 2017 - 2019

Project Overview

Research highlights self-regulation as a critical set of life skills linked to individual success across the lifespan, including the ability to set goals, delay gratification, exert willpower, manage emotions, and solve problems. Strong evidence reveals that parents, educators, and other adult caregivers can improve the development of self-regulation through warm, responsive interactions, role modeling, and by thoughtful structuring of their environment. Two clear periods of neurobiological development prime the brain to acquire self-regulation skills: the first during early childhood, and the second in adolescence. Yet, most of the evidence on the effectiveness of strategies to support self-regulation comes from studies of only young children. Few have examined ways in which parents and other trusted adults can enhance self-regulation development among adolescents.

There is a natural context for supporting adolescent self-regulation skill development: healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programming. HMRE programs, offered to diverse youth in school or community-based settings, deliver curricula that focus on interpersonal relationships and skills needed for adulthood. While they typically include topics like communicating with romantic partners and peers, setting life and relationship goals, managing anger and stress, or solving problems in tough situations, staff working in HMRE programs may not be familiar with self-regulation frameworks or with their pivotal role in fostering these skills.

Thus, in fall 2017, the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) awarded a contract to Public Strategies, in partnership with Mathematica Policy Research and Dr. Desiree Murray, to carry out Self-Regulation Training Approaches and Resources to Improve Staff Capacity for Implementing Healthy Marriage Programs for Youth (SARHM). This two-year project will build upon lessons learned about the important role of a self-regulation framework, leveraging it to increase the impact of healthy marriage (HM) programs for youth ages 14-24 through the identification, development, and formative rapid-cycle evaluation of co-regulation focused training resources for staff who implement HM programs. The project’s goal is to enhance staff capacity to promote the self-regulation development of all adolescents in those programs.

The study includes a review of literature to summarize the current knowledge base around:

  • adolescent self-regulation skill development,
  • co-regulation and training,
  • best practices for measurement and assessment of self-regulation among adolescents and co-regulation of those who work with them;
  • exploration of current youth HMRE programs and curricula through the lens of self-regulation
  • identification, development and testing of co-regulation training approaches and resources for staff with an eye toward broad application among curriculum developers, programs, and providers in the future

The point of contact is Aleta Meyer.