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Co-Regulation From Birth Through Young Adulthood: A Practice Brief

January 5, 2018
Child Care, Early Head Start, Youth Services, Head Start, Self-Sufficiency, Welfare & Employment
Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Series | Learn more about this project
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  • File Size 10mb
  • Pages 10
  • Published 2020


Adult caregivers such as parents, teachers, coaches, and other mentors can play a critical role in shaping and supporting self-regulation development from birth through young adulthood through an interactive process called “co-regulation.”


This brief builds on reviews of the theoretical and intervention literature to provide caregivers and program administrators with guidelines for effective co-regulation support at each stage of development. It is based on work conducted by the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), described in a series of four reports referenced throughout the brief.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • For children, youth, and young adults, development of self-regulation is dependent on predictable, responsive, and supportive caregivers and environments.
  • Through an interactive process called “co-regulation,” adult caregivers such as parents, teachers, coaches, and other mentors play a critical role in shaping and supporting self-regulation development from birth through young adulthood.
  • Co-regulation involves three types of caregiver support: a warm relationship, environmental structure, and skills instruction and coaching.
  • These components will look different at different ages as child capacity for self-regulation grows, but co-regulation remains a critical resource for wellbeing into young adulthood.
  • Training and interventions to promote co-regulation can produce significant, substantive changes in parent-child relationships, parenting skills, classroom climate, and caregivers’ own self-regulation.
  • Expansion of effective and consistent co-regulation across child, youth, and young adult settings may form a foundation for strong self-regulation development at a community level.
  • Because stronger self-regulation is associated with higher income, better financial planning, lower rates of substance use and violence, and decreased long-term health costs, investment in caregiver co-regulation has the potential to help build healthier communities for our families.


Rosanbalm, K.D., & Murray, D.W. (2017). Caregiver Co-regulation Across Development: A Practice Brief. OPRE Brief #2017-80. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US. Department of Health and Human Services.


The act of managing thoughts and feelings to enable goal-directed actions.
The supportive process between caring adults and children, youth, or young adults that fosters self-regulation development.
Last Reviewed: July 20, 2020