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  • Cited by 75
  • Print publication year: 1998
  • Online publication date: September 2009

3 - Development of Regulatory Focus: Promotion and Prevention as Ways of Living



All children need both nurturance and security in order to survive. Still, parents' social regulatory style can emphasize either nurturance or security, by either bolstering or safeguarding in order to meet desired end-states, or by either withdrawing love or criticizing when desired end-states are not met. These different social regulatory styles communicate distinct viewpoints about the world. Nurturant social regulation engenders a promotion focus, in which self-regulation is concerned with maximizing the presence of positive outcomes and minimizing the absence of positive outcomes. Security social regulation engenders a prevention focus, in which self-regulation is concerned with maximizing the absence of negative outcomes and minimizing the presence of negative outcomes. These distinct self-regulatory systems produce different emotional vulnerabilities (e.g., depression versus anxiety) and different strategic inclinations (approaching goal-congruent actions versus avoiding goal-discrepant actions). The results of studies with both children and adults are presented that support each of these propositions.


The different ways that significant others respond to an individual communicate information about the nature of the world and the individual's place in it. An individual's interactions with significant others send messages about his or her person–environment fit. In this chapter, we propose a basic distinction between nurturance-oriented parenting, which instills a promotion focus in children, and security-oriented parenting, which instills a prevention focus. We consider both the socialization determinants and the motivational consequences of acquiring regulatory focus.