Latest research from New Zealand demonstrates that childhood levels of self-control are clearly linked with outcomes later in life.
1,000 NZ children were assessed at 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 years of age and then interviewed at age 22.
Participants with poor self-control were more likely to become one-parent families, more likely to have credit and health problems, and more likely to have a criminal conviction. This was true even allowing for the effects of intelligence and social class.
- In the top fifth – in terms of childhood self-control – 11% had serious adult health problems compared to 27% in the bottom fifth.
- 13% of the top fifth were involved in a criminal offence compared with 43% of the bottom fifth.
Terrie Moffitt and her colleagues argue that this is a strong case for introducing universal self-control training into schools for children and adolescents. This would not carry the stigma of one-to-one interventions and would benefit everybody in society.
Source: February 2011 Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences
NB Marshmallows refers to Mischel’s famous experiment often cited in connection with emotional intelligence.
Here is another article about self-control with an embedded video showing 4-year olds using distraction to avoid eating the marshmallows.