The model presented identifies the importance of neural regulation of autonomic state as an antecedent substrate for emotional, cognitive, and behavioral regulation. It is proposed that individual differences in neural regulation of autonomic state are related to normal and abnormal development. Establishing nervous system regulation of autonomic state is the infant's initial task of self-regulation. Survival for the high-risk infant is based primarily on physiological self-regulation. Although the methods described focus on the high-risk neonate, the model provides insight into normal development and may be generalized to the study of older children and adults with behavioral and psychological problems. Moreover, the model may contribute to assessment and intervention strategics for normal and abnormal development.