Oklahoma City, Okla. — New applied research in the emerging field of self-regulation development reveals promising approaches to support positive program and youth outcomes through adult co-regulation.

The importance of self-regulation to a host of outcomes has been widely established and is the focus of many interventions, particularly for younger children. Much less prevalent are interventions that build the capacity of adults for co-regulation—the supportive process between caring adults and youth that fosters youth self-regulation. There are very few self-regulation interventions for adolescents and young adults, and almost no interventions that target the adults who work with them.

SARHM—Self-Regulation Training Approaches and Resources to Improve Staff Capacity for Implementing Healthy Marriage Programs for Youth—is a formative evaluation funded by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) in partnership with the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE).

“Adults play a pivotal role in teaching and modeling self-regulation skills for youth—especially emotion regulation,” said Aly Frei of Public Strategies, who directs the project. “SARHM is deeply informed by both research and practice. But SARHM goes beyond theory to provide an actionable set of tools for youth-serving practitioners on how to use co-regulation to support youth development and turbo-charge their programs.”

SARHM builds on the foundational work published in OPRE’s Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Series, which identified gaps both in interventions for youth ages 14-24 (a pivotal age range for self-regulation development) and in resources for youth-serving practitioners. Through SARHM, a team of researchers and practitioners from Public Strategies, Mathematica, and select Relationship Education (RE) programs developed strategies that providers could use to foster youth self-regulation. The project team applied a human development framework and formative prototyping process as they developed co-regulation micro-interventions. The work is part of ongoing efforts at the Administration for Children and Families to communicate the potential of a self-regulation framework for strengthening prevention programs and human services. Aleta Meyer and Caryn Blitz of OPRE are the Contracting Officer’s Representatives for the project.

The report details how researchers in prevention science and public health partnered with practitioners delivering youth relationship education to translate the theory of co-regulation into action through strategies that can be used in a variety of programs for youth.

“The power of research is best demonstrated through its application,” said Scott Baumgartner of Mathematica, SARHM’s Principal Investigator. “Unlike many interventions, this approach doesn’t require new curricula or complex skill adaptations. Rather, SARHM strategies are easily understood, demonstrated, and integrated into existing program contexts.”

“For those wanting to improve youth outcomes and self-regulation skills, SARHM provides a clear, promising framework and practical program tools,” said Aly Frei. “Through age-appropriate micro-interventions that can be embedded within existing programs, adults can positively impact youth outcomes while simultaneously enhancing their own self-regulation abilities.”

Educators piloting the co-regulation strategies said that with practice, the strategies improved youth engagement and reduced disruptions, such as youth talking over one another or using cell phones during the session. Educators reported a greater understanding of the importance of self-regulation in youth development, the significant role that educators play in promoting youths’ self-regulation, and the types of interpersonal and environmental strategies they could implement to amplify the impact of their program. Researchers note that these shifts in educators’ mindsets may be one of the most important practice changes resulting from the project.

Learn more in the SARHM final report and executive summary. Learn more about OPRE’s foundational work in the Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Series.


About the Office of Family Assistance (OFA)
The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) administers federal grant programs that foster family economic security and stability, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and the Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF) program, Native Employment Works, Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grants, Health Profession Opportunity Grants, and Tribal TANF-Child Welfare Coordination grants.

About OPRE
The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) is responsible for advising the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of programs to improve the economic and social well-being of children and families. OPRE studies ACF programs and the populations they serve through rigorous research and evaluation projects.

About Public Strategies
Public Strategies operates at the crossroads of human services, research, marketing, and technology. The firm’s pioneering work in program design, communication, strategic consulting, and technical assistance has established Public Strategies’ national reputation for innovation and impact. Public Strategies is also committed to advancing the public good at the local level through high-impact direct services designed to strengthen families, individuals, and communities.

About Mathematica
Mathematica is an insight partner that illuminates the path to progress for public- and private-sector changemakers. The firm applies expertise at the intersection of data, methods, policy, and practice, translating big questions into deep insights that weather the toughest tests. Driven by its mission to improve public well-being, Mathematica collaborates closely with its clients to improve programs, refine strategies, and enhance understanding.