Individual differences in emotional reactivity emerge in the first months of life. In some infants, this is marked by a fearful withdrawal from the uncertainty of the larger world, while other infants display a joyful embrace. While early reactivity can shape behavior over time, it is not immutable. The child can come to shape, or regulate, these initial emotional tendencies, allowing him to meet individual goals and conform to societal expectations of behavior. This chapter focuses on effortful control as a key component of an individual’s regulatory arsenal. It explores the role of effortful control in helping individuals navigate the exceedingly complex social and emotional world confronted in adolescence, highlighting the behavioral, cognitive, and neural mechanisms at play.
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