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Health Psychol Rev. 2020 Mar;14(1):116-131. doi: 10.1080/17437199.2020.1718530. Epub 2020 Jan 27.

Developmentally informed behaviour change techniques to enhance self-regulation in a health promotion context: a conceptual review.

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Department of Health Behaviour and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Department of Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Self-regulation (SR), or the ability to manage thoughts, emotions, and behaviours in order to achieve a desired goal, is seen as underlying positive health behaviours. In adults, behaviour change techniques (BCTs) are recommended to promote SR across health domains; although establishing healthy habits early in life is important, studies of SR and health in children are rare. This conceptual review provides guidance on developmental considerations for applying BCTs to enhance SR capacity in children and youth with the goal of fostering positive behavioural health trajectories early in the lifespan. Key considerations include the nature of developmental changes in SR and interaction among SR processes; temporal associations between SR and health behaviours; and relevance of health goals for children and youth. Building on a meta-review of BCT's used to promote SR in adults and youth, this conceptual review highlights key SR milestones to consider in behaviour change-focused interventions from early childhood through adolescence and provides an overview of social-ecologic influences on SR development and associations between SR and health behaviours across these age periods. Implications for and examples of using developmentally-informed BCTs in interventions to enhance SR in children and youth are noted and suggestions for future research are discussed.


Self-regulation (SR); behaviour change techniques (BCTs); childhood; health promotion; intervention

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