We are interested in how to measure self-regulation across multiple methods at the state and the trait level and how those measurement models of regulatory abilities map on to risk for substance use. Moreover, we are interested in how multiple domains of self regulation develop across adolescence and how the environmental and interpersonal context influences variability in that development. 

Research Overview


Our research focuses on the developmental psychopathology of substance use disorders, with a focus on adolescence as a high risk period. We study how adolescents come to use alcohol and drugs, and how that use progresses into substance abuse and dependence. Our work has attempted to understand how cognitive and emotional aspects of self-regulation develops across adolescence, how context shapes their development, and how these forms of self regulation may either enhance or buffer the effects of other risk factors on problematic alcohol and drug use. We are also interested in understanding how some of these self-regulatory mechanisms might influence the development of other behaviors that might be driven by poor self-regulation, like risky sexual behaviors, aggression and delinquency, and binge eating. We have also explored the effects of stressful life events and early problem behaviors on the etiology of substance use, modeled the associations among risky behaviors across development, and the influence of acculturation and cultural differences on the development of substance use.


Completed Research Projects

Self-Regulation and Sensitivity to Context as Determinants of Psychopathology in Adolescence

Principal Investigators: 

Kevin M. King, University of Washington

Kate McLaughlin, Harvard University

Kathryn Monahan, University of Pittsburgh


Adolescence is a critical period of risk for the emergence of both internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, including depression, substance use, delinquency, and risk-taking behavior. Moreover, adolescent’s self-regulatory capacities are sensitive to context. The goal of the current project is to understand how different aspects of social and environmental context may differentially influence different aspects of self-regulation (reward sensitivity, impulse control, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and rumination) or how individual differences in response to these contexts are related to individual differences in psychopathology.

Funded by a grant from the Jacobs Foundation


Mindfulness Training in a Juvenile Justice Setting: Feasibility and Effects on Self-Regulation


Principal Investigator: 

Kevin M. King, University of Washington


Sarah Bowen, University of Washington

Paula Nurius, University of Washington


Adolescents in juvenile justice settings have been exposed to some of the most severe and profound adverse childhood experierences, and as a result have extreme difficulties with self-regulation that can impair their ability to succeed. The goal of this project is to test whether a mindfulness-based intervention can improve self-regulation among these teenagers.
Funded by a grant from the Center for Child and Family Well Being at the University of Washington

Dimensions of Impulsivity and the Development of Alcohol Problems

This study examines a multidimensional model of facets of impulsivity, utilizing behavioral and self-report survey measures, and how that multidimensional model of impulsivity is associated with levels and change over time in alcohol use among first-year college students.

Funded by ABMRF: The Foundation for Alcohol Research


Emergence of Adolescent Substance Use Problems from the Externalizing Spectrum

The goals of the proposed project are to develop and estimate a developmentally sensitive model of the externalizing spectrum from kindergarten through late adolescence using advanced latent variable measurement and growth models. Further analyses will explore the developmental progression of the externalizing spectrum using several innovative methods, and identify the predictors of the externalizing spectrum across developmental periods.

Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse

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