Self-Regulation and Goal Attainment: A New Perspective for Employment Programs

Publisher: Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Feb 28, 2017
Elizabeth W. Cavadel, Jacqueline F. Kauff, Mary Anne Anderson, Sheena McConnell, and Michelle Derr

Key Findings:

  • Potentially effective interventions exist for strengthening self-regulation skills and goal attainment, but because only a few employment programs have implemented such interventions, we still have much to learn about whether and how they contribute to self-sufficiency outcomes.
  • Advancing our knowledge may require learning from programs in other fields with more experience implementing similar interventions such as parenting, youth development, money management, substance abuse treatment and prevention, and mental health.
  • Measuring outcomes and impacts on self-regulation and goal attainment in the context of employment programs is important but challenging. Existing measurement tools may not be applicable in employment program contexts so new measures may need to be developed.
Researchers, policymakers, and practitioners are increasingly interested in the role that self-regulation may play in the ability of people to obtain and maintain employment. This interest is motivated by findings from three broad strands of research. First, research suggests self-regulation is necessary for goal setting and goal pursuit, which in turn foster positive outcomes across a variety of contexts. Second, there is growing evidence that the conditions associated with poverty can hinder the development and/or use of self-regulation skills. Third, evidence suggests that self-regulation skills continue to develop in adulthood. This report defines self-regulation and the specific self-regulation skills that may be most relevant for attaining employment-related goals. It describes how the development and use of self-regulation skills may be hindered by environmental factors, such as poverty, as well as how these skills may be strengthened through interventions and strategies that have been successful in other contexts. In addition, the report provides examples of employment programs that have incorporated interventions focused on self-regulation and goal attainment and discusses the importance and challenges of measuring the success of such interventions.