Momentary Self-regulation: Scale Development and Preliminary Validation

JMIR Ment Health. 2022 May 10;9(5):e35273. doi: 10.2196/35273.


Background: Self-regulation refers to a person's ability to manage their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes to achieve long-term goals. Most prior research has examined self-regulation at the individual level; however, individual-level assessments do not allow the examination of dynamic patterns of intraindividual variability in self-regulation and thus cannot aid in understanding potential malleable processes of self-regulation that may occur in response to the daily environment.

Objective: This study aims to develop a brief, psychometrically sound momentary self-regulation scale that can be practically administered through participants' mobile devices at a momentary level.

Methods: This study was conducted in 2 phases. In the first phase, in a sample of 522 adults collected as part of a larger self-regulation project, we examined 23 previously validated assessments of self-regulation containing 594 items in total to evaluate the underlying structure of self-regulation via exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses. We then selected 20 trait-level items to be carried forward to the second phase. In the second phase, we converted each item into a momentary question and piloted the momentary items in a sample of 53 adults over 14 days. Using the results from the momentary pilot study, we explored the psychometric properties of the items and assessed their underlying structure. We then proposed a set of subscale and total score calculations.

Results: In the first phase, the selected individual-level items appeared to measure 4 factors of self-regulation. The factors identified were perseverance, sensation seeking, emotion regulation, and mindfulness. In the second phase of the ecological momentary assessment pilot, the selected items demonstrated strong construct validity as well as predictive validity for health risk behaviors.

Conclusions: Our findings provide preliminary evidence for a 12-item momentary self-regulation scale comprising 4 subscales designed to capture self-regulatory dynamics at the momentary level.

Keywords: ecological momentary assessment; health behavior change; health risk behaviors; mobile phone; momentary self-regulation; psychometric; self-regulation.