Self-Regulation in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Challenges and Future Directions

  • Divna HaslamEmail author
  • Anilena Mejia
  • Dana Thomson
  • Theresa Betancourt


Self-regulation is developed early in life through family and parenting interactions. There has been considerable debate on how to best conceptualize and enhance self-regulation. Many consider self-regulation as the socio-emotional competencies required for healthy and productive living, including the flexibility to regulate emotions, control anger, maintain calm under pressure, and respond adaptively to a variety of situations. Its enhancement is the focus of many child and family interventions. An important limitation of the self-regulation field is that most empirical and conceptual research comes from high-income countries (HICs). Less is known about the manifestation, measurement and role of self-regulation in many collectivistic, rural, or less-developed contexts such as low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This position paper aims to present an initial review of the existing literature on self-regulation in LMICs, with a focus on parenting, and to describe challenges in terms of measurement and implementation of self-regulation components into existing interventions for parents, children and adolescents in these settings. We conclude by establishing steps or recommendations for conducting basic research to understand how self-regulation expresses itself in vulnerable and low-resource settings and for incorporating components of self-regulation into services in LMICs.


Self-regulation Reflective functioning Self-control Executive functioning Emotion regulation Low- and middle-income countries Collectivistic Culture Low resource settings LMICs Parenting 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The Parenting and Family Support Centre is partly funded by royalties stemming from published resources of the Triple P—Positive Parenting Program, which is developed and owned by The University of Queensland (UQ). Royalties are also distributed to the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences at UQ and contributory authors of published Triple P resources. Triple P International (TPI) Pty Ltd is a private company licensed by Uniquest Pty Ltd on behalf of UQ, to publish and disseminate Triple P worldwide. The authors of this report have no share or ownership of TPI. Dr Haslam receives royalties and/or consultancy fees from TPI. TPI had no involvement in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of data, or writing of this paper. Dr Meija holds an honorary appointment at UQ. Other authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Parenting & Family Support CentreThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.The University of ManchesterManchesterUK
  3. 3.Boston College School of Social WorkChestnut HillUSA

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