Research highlight

Behaviour: Development of self-control in young children

Scientific Reports

December 11, 2014

Age and gender seem to have an important role in the development of good self-control in children in kindergarten and primary school, a study in Scientific Reports indicates. Data collected from 2,135 children aged 3-9 years from schools across China reveal that good self-control behaviours improve with age, and girls performed better than boys in tests of self-control.

The ability of children to control impulsive behaviour and plan before action may be critical to their success in adult life; it has been suggested that possessing such self-control in childhood can predict health, relationship and career outcomes in adulthood. Most studies of self-control development have focused either on very young children or adolescents, but there is a lack of research on children in kindergarten and primary school, a transition period that requires children to regulate their behaviour. Thus, Ting Tao, Wenbin Gao and colleagues investigated self-control in this age group.

The results indicated that there were improvements in good self-control during this period, especially between the ages of 5 and 6 years; however, the incidence of individuals with poor control remained stable. The findings support theories that there is a dual systems model of self-control, split into constrained or impulsive behaviour. The authors note that girls showed higher levels of good self-control than boys. The differences seem to be related to good self-control behaviour rather than poor control.

doi: 10.1038/srep07272

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