General Self-regulation (GSR)
LASA149 / LASA349
Contact: Almar Kok
Self-regulation refers to the processes that enable an individual to guide goal-directed activities over time and across different contexts. Regulation implies conscious or unconscious attempts to alter thoughts, affect, behaviours or attention. Such attempts are initiated when thoughts, affect, behaviors or attention that are serving a certain personal goal are disrupted, that is, when people are confronted with challenges to reaching their goals (1).
Self-regulation involves reducing discrepancies between one’s actual state and a desired standard (goal), which may be set by oneself (internal) or reflect a requirement by the external world (2,3). Individuals can use different strategies to reduce these discrepancies. For example, one can try to alter one’s actual state, change the goals one pursues or attempt to influence one’s perceptions of either of these (3). With respect to emotional functioning, diverse affective states may arise as a result of success or failure to align one’s actual state with the internal or external goals. Regulating these affective states may also become a goal of self-regulation. Hence, given that several processes of self-regulation may take place simultaneously, self-regulation is often seen as a cognitively demanding task (1). Furthermore, aging is associated with an increasing likelihood of major challenges to one’s physical, cognitive and emotional functioning, caused by losses in various domains of life and potentially compromising one’s ability and resources for effective self-regulation with increasing age.
Recent interest in the empirical analysis of self-regulation has been stimulated by cultural, economic, and political forces that emphasize individual responsibility, autonomy, and freedom of choice, presumably leading to a more complex (social) environment in which people are expected to continually adapt to changing circumstances. Self-regulation constructs and models have been used in research on personality, social psychology, health psychology and behavioral medicine.
Selective Optimization with Compensation
A widely used theory that proposes an effective strategy to deal with ageing-related losses and has many conceptual links to self-regulation is Baltes and Baltes’ model of Selective Optimization with Compensation (SOC) (4). In this theory, Selection focuses on setting goals. The goals one chooses may reflect desired states (‘elective selection’), or new goals that replace the original ones after a loss of resources (‘loss-based selection’). Optimization refers to acquiring, applying, and refining the means that help to attain one’s goals. Compensation focuses on maintenance of a given level of functioning in the face of loss of goal-relevant means (5). In order to assess the salience of SOC strategies to LASA participants, a postal questionnaire was included in the F and G waves that aims to measure these different ways of self-regulation in old age.
Measurement instruments in LASA
LASA used a 14-item questionnaire that includes items derived from three different questionnaires. These have been developed based on SOC theory and cover the concept of self-regulation (5–7). Four items measure the use of different SOC strategies (“Strategy Use” dimension). Four items measure the avoidance of potentially maladaptive strategies, for example by developing alternative strategies in advance (“Metastrategy-Knowledge” dimension). Six items indicate how respondents go about deciding and accomplishing things in order to reach a goal (“Action and Coping Planning” dimensions).
The domains of self-regulation are represented by the following items:
- Strategy Use (4 items: #2, 4, 5, 12)
- Metastrategy-Knowledge (4 items: #1, 3, 8, 9)
- Action and Coping Planning (6 items: #6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14)
Each item is answered on a Likert scale from 1 (totally disagree) to 6 (totally agree) and summed to create the scale score. The 14 items can also be used as a single scale. For the 14-item scale, if one or two items are missing, these are imputed by the mean of the available items. For the subscales, no scale score is computed in case of any missing item.
LASAG149 / LASAH149 (self-administered questionnaire, in Dutch)
LASAG149 / LASAH149;
LASAG349 / LASAG349 (scaled)
Availability of information per wave ¹
¹ More information about the LASA data collection waves is available here.
* 2B=baseline second cohort;
3B=baseline third cohort;
MB=migrants: baseline first cohort;
K=future wave 2021-2022
Sa=data collected in self-administered questionnaire
Previous use in LASA
This questionnaire has not been used in any LASA publications yet.
- Karoly P. Mechanisms of self-regulation: A systems view. Annu Rev Psychol. 1993;44:23–52.
- Carver CS, Scheier MF. Control theory: A useful conceptual framework for personality-social, clinical, and health psychology. Psychol Bull. 1982;92(1):111–35.
- Gross JJ. Emotion Regulation: Current Status and Future Prospects. Psychol Inq. 2015;26(1):1–26.
- Baltes PB, Baltes PB. On the Incomplete Architecture of Human Ontogeny. Am Psychol. 1997;52(4):366–80.
- Freund AM, Baltes PB. Life-management strategies of selection, optimization and compensation: Measurement by self-report and construct validity. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002;82(4):642–62.
- Freund AM, Baltes PB. The orchestration of selection, optimization, and compensation: An action-theoretical conceptualization of a theory of developmental regulation. In: Perrig W, Grob A, editors. Control of human behavior, mental processes, and consciousness. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum; 2000. p. 35–58.
- Sniehotta FF, Schwarzer R, Scholz U, Schüz B. Action planning and coping planning for long-term lifestyle change: Theory and assessment. Eur J Soc Psychol. 2005;35(4):565–76.
Date of last update (new): July 23, 2020