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The Concepts of Self-Regulation. SDT differentiates types of behavioral regulation in terms of the degree to which they represent autonomous or self-determined (versus controlled) functioning. Intrinsic motivation is the prototype of autonomous activity; when people are intrinsically motivated, they are by definition self-determined. Extrinsically motivated activity, in contrast, is often more controlled (i.e., less autonomous). However, SDT differentiates types of extrinsic motivation in terms of the degree to which it has been internalized, suggesting that the more fully it is internalized and integrated with one’s self, the more it will be the basis for autonomous behavior. There are four different types of behavioral regulation, defined in terms of the degree to which the regulation of an extrinsically motivated activity has been internalized and integrated. They are external regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation, and integrated regulation, in order from the least to the most fully internalized (see Ryan & Deci, 2000, for more on this). Introjection refers to taking in a regulation but not accepting it as one’s own; identification refers to accepting the value of the activity as personally important, and integration refers to integrating that identification with other aspects of one’s self. External and introjected regulation are considered relatively controlled forms of extrinsic motivation, whereas identified and integrated regulation are considered relatively autonomous. Finally, within SDT there is a concept of Amotivation, which means to be neither intrinsically nor extrinsically motivated–in other words, to be without intention or motivation for a particular behavior.
The Self-Regulation Questionnaires assess domain-specific individual differences in the types of motivation or regulation. That is, the questions concern the regulation of a particular behavior (e.g., exercising regularly) or class of behaviors (e.g., engaging in religious behaviors). The regulatory styles, while considered individual differences, are not “trait” concepts, for they are not general nor are they particularly stable. However, neither are they “state” concepts, for they are more stable than typical states which fluctuate easily as a function of time and place. The format for these questionnaires was introduced by Ryan and Connell (1989). Each questionnaire asks why the respondent does a behavior (or class of behaviors) and then provides several possible reasons that have been preselected to represent the different styles of regulation or motivation. The first two questionnaires were developed for late-elementary and middle school children, and concern school work (SRQ-Academic) and prosocial behavior (SRQ-Prosocial). Their validation is described in the Ryan and Connell (1989) article. Since then, several others have been developed that are intended for adults. The Treatment Self-Regulation Questionnaire has been widely used in the study of behavior change in health care settings. A validation article of the TSRQ was published by Levesque, Williams, Elliot, Pickering, Bodenhamer, and Finley (2007). The following SRQs are displayed in this section of the web site.
Academic Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ-A)
Prosocial Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ-P)
Treatment Self-Regulation Questionnaire (TSRQ)
Learning Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ-L)
Exercise Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ-E)
Religion Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ-R)
Friendship Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ-F)
Scoring the Questionnaires. Each participant gets a score on each subscale by averaging responses to each of the items that make up that subscale–for example, the average of all items representing introjected regulation would represent the score for that subscale. However, different of the self-regulation questionnaires have different numbers of subscales, depending on the following four considerations. First, fully integrating a behavioral regulation is very unlikely to have occurred during childhood or adolescence. Thus, the scales used with children do not have an integrated subscale. Second, some behaviors are not interesting in their own right, and thus would not be intrinsically motivated. Thus, questionnaires to assess regulatory styles for such behaviors (e.g., stopping smoking) do not have an intrinsic motivation subscale. Third, the concept of amotivation is relevant to some research questions and not to others, so the concept is included in some of the scales but not others. Fourth, some of the questionnaires, rather than having separate regulatory-style subscales have only two subscales: controlled regulation and autonomous regulation. This is done when the research questions being addressed can be adequately addressed with just the two “super” categories of regulation. In these scales, items representing external and introjected regulation make up the controlled subscale, and items representing identified, integrated, and/or intrinsic make up the autonomous subscale.
Relative Autonomy Index. Finally, it is worth noting that the subscale scores on the SRQ, regardless of the number of subscales in the particular scale, can be combined to form a Relative Autonomy Index (RAI). For example, the SRQ-Academic has four subscales: external, introjected, identified, and intrinsic. To form the RAI, the external subscale is weighted -2, the introjected subscale is weighted -1, the identified subscale is weighted +1, and the intrinsic subscale is weighted +2. In other words, the controlled subscales are weighted negatively, and the autonomous subscales are weighted positively. The more controlled the regulatory style represented by a subscale, the larger its negative weight; and the more autonomous the regulatory style represented by a subscale, the larger its positive weight.
Summary of the Scoring Procedures. We have used the self-regulatory style values in three ways in different analyses. First, we use each subscale score separately in the analyses so that participants have a score for each style. Second, we compute a Relative Autonomy Index by weighting the subscale scores and combining them (see, e.g., Grolnick & Ryan, 1989). Third, we form a score for controlled regulation by averaging across external and introjected items, and a score for autonomous regulation by averaging across identified, integrated, and/or intrinsic items (e.g., Williams, Grow, Freedman, Ryan, & Deci, 1996).
It should be clear that new research questions may require slight adaptations of the existing questionnaire, or that new SRQs may need to be developed for new behaviors or domains. The important point is to remain true to the concept and to validate the adaptations fully. We are in agreement with Loevinger (1957) that psychological tests and surveys should serve as an aid in theoretical development, so any construct is in need of continual “bootstrapping.” Scales may be in need of adaptation as the research question changes.
Note: The SRQ in the political domain is available from Gaetan F. Losier (by e-mail: [email protected]). Kennon M. Sheldon, University of Missouri, Columbia (e-mail: [email protected]) has developed a comparable approach to assessing self-regulation for personal strivings. Contact them for further information.
- Grolnick, W. S., & Ryan, R. M. (1989). Parent style associated with children’s self-regulation and competence in school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 143-154.
- Loevinger, J. (1957). Objective tests as instruments of psychological theory. Psychological Reports, Monograph Supplement, 9 (1, Serial No. 3).
- Ryan, R. M., & Connell, J. P. (1989). Perceived locus of causality and internalization: Examining reasons for acting in two domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 749-761.
- Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.
- Williams, G. C., Grow, V. M., Freedman, Z., Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (1996). Motivational predictors of weight-loss and weight-loss maintenance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 115-126.
- Levesque, C. S., Williams, G. C., Elliot D., Pickering, M. A., Bodenhamer, B., & Finley, P. J (2007). Validating the theoretical structure of the treatment self-regulation questionnaire (TSRQ) across three different health behaviors. Health Education Research, 21, 691-702.
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