How the longitudinal development of self-regulation predicts later decision-making competence.

Josh Weller’s latest research paper sheds light on how the development of self-regulation links to decision  making competence. Here is the Abstract:

Developmental trajectory classes in psychological dysregulation predict later decision-making competence. Addictive Behaviors. 

Adolescence and emerging adulthood are developmental periods associated with increased risk taking, including increases in alcohol and substance use and antisocial behaviors. Typical psychological growth from adolescence into early adulthood reflects increases in traits related to psychological regulation (e.g., greater emotional stability and less impulsivity). However, individuals often vary greatly in these developmental trajectories. The current research examines the degree to which differences in developmental trajectories of psychological regulation are associated with decision-making skills – i.e., those “needed by normatively competent decision makers” (Bruine de Bruin et al., 2007).  In this study, self-regulatory capacities were measured at age 10-12, with follow-up assessments at 14, 16, and 19 years. At age 19, we administered the Youth Decision-Making Competence (DMC) scale. Correlational analyses revealed that lower psychological regulation as early as age 10 was associated with worse DMC scores. A latent class growth mixture model yielded three distinct developmental trajectories of psychological regulation: (a) a Moderate-Stable group, a modal class that demonstrated stable and average regulative tendencies throughout adolescence, (b) a Low-Decreasing group, which demonstrated greater self-regulation throughout childhood, and a (c) High-Increasing group, which demonstrated low self-regulative tendencies at age 10 that became increasingly dysregulated throughout adolescence. Individuals in the Moderate-Stable group and the High-Increasing group demonstrated lower DMC performance than those in the Low-Decreasing group. Our findings also reinforce past work that indicates considerable individual differences in intra-individual change across adolescence, and that even early patterns of psychological dysregulation development can impact later decision-making tendencies.