The Development of Emotion Regulation: A Neuropsychological Perspective

Part II. Social and Emotional Development

  1. Marc D. Lewis,
  2. Rebecca Todd,
  3. Xiaowen Xu

Published Online: 20 SEP 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470880166.hlsd002003

The Handbook of Life-Span Development

The Handbook of Life-Span Development

How to Cite

Lewis, M. D., Todd, R. and Xu, X. 2010. The Development of Emotion Regulation: A Neuropsychological Perspective. The Handbook of Life-Span Development. II:3.

Author Information

  1. University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 20 SEP 2010


Emotion regulation is often viewed as a cognitive response to challenging emotions. From a neural perspective, however, cognitive and emotional processes cannot be neatly differentiated, self-regulatory activities are embedded in all emotional processes, and these activities are best parsed and sequenced according to the functions they serve (e.g., appraisal, self-monitoring). Developmental research has taught us that emotion regulation advances in a predictable manner with age. However, this progression derives from experience-dependent processes of synaptic shaping. In fact, the emotionally driven “sculpting” of synaptic networks locks in individual differences while advancing cognitive capabilities, so that personality development and emotion regulation are deeply intertwined. We apply this neurodevelopmental framework to two difficult issues in life span development: the classic observation of emotional dysregulation in adolescence and the counter-intuitive finding of more positive mood states in old age. We suggest resolutions to both issues based on developmental change in the cortical regions recruited for emotion regulation.


  • emotion regulation;
  • cognitive neuroscience;
  • personality development;
  • cognition-emotion;
  • synaptic networks