Emotion regulation: a theme in search of definition

Monogr Soc Res Child Dev. 1994;59(2-3):25-52.


Contemporary interest in emotion regulation promises to advance important new views of emotional development as well as offering applications to developmental psychopathology, but these potential contributions are contingent on developmentalists' attention to some basic definitional issues. This essay offers a perspective on these issues by considering how emotion regulation should be defined, the various components of the management of emotion, how emotion regulation strategies fit into the dynamics of social interaction, and how individual differences in emotion regulation should be conceptualized and measured. In the end, it seems clear that emotion regulation is a conceptual rubric for a remarkable range of developmental processes, each of which may have its own catalysts and control processes. Likewise, individual differences in emotion regulation skills likely have multifaceted origins and are also related in complex ways to the person's emotional goals and the immediate demands of the situation. Assessment approaches that focus on the dynamics of emotion are well suited to elucidating these complex developmental and individual differences. In sum, a challenging research agenda awaits those who enter this promising field of study.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Affect / physiology
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Terminology as Topic