Self-Control in Children Can Forecast the Rest of Their Life

Photo: (Photo : Chayene Rafaela / Unsplash)

Children need to develop three types of self control: impulse, emotional, and movement control. The ability to control these aspects of a person is one of the earliest demands society places on children.

Why is Self-control Important?

In a study of sibling-pairs, it was determined that the sibling with poorer self-control had poorer outcomes despite being raised in the same family, NCBI revealed.

Development of self-control in early childhood has a lasting impact on one's life, well into adulthood. Research shows that better self-control in children resulted in slower physical and brain aging, and better management of finances, social demands, and health.

Programs aimed at increasing self-control at an early age may improve lifespan and quality of life. Further, policy-makers consider such programs to be beneficial to reducing crime and improving citizens' health and wealth.

At What Age is Self-control Developed?

In a survey of parents of toddlers, 56% believed their children had self-control before age 3. A significant percentage of parents even believed their children had this ability at age 6 months. Yet, science shows that children do not actually develop self-control (especially emotional and impulse control) until around age 3.5 to 4 years, ZerotoThree reported.

Parents of 2-year-olds are said to have an expectation gap with their toddlers. There is a misconception that when toddlers can verbally repeat their parents' rules, they are able to follow it. With that in mind, expectations should be in line with the child's abilities.

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Benefits of Development of Self-control in Early Childhood

To come to a conclusion of the benefits of early self-control development, researchers used nine measures of self-control in children. These include hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, and persistence measured through parent, teacher, and self-reports. The children were tested at ages 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11. Older children were interviewed by a psychiatrist. Now, on to the benefits of self-control in children:

Slower Aging of the Body and Brain Aging

The study participants were later examined for signs of physiological decline between ages 26 and 45. Further, at age 45, the researchers collected structural MRI measures to determine signs of brain aging. They also examined the volume of white matter hyperintensities to determine cognitive decline and risk of dementia. Finally, the researchers took facial photographs of the participants.

The result was that children with better self-control showed slower aging in adulthood. Their different organ systems aged more slowly, they had lower dementia risk, appeared younger in photographs, and walked more quickly, PNAS reported.

Further, children with better self-control grew up more confident that they would live to at least age 75. They also had better practical health knowledge and were more optimistic about aging.

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Better Money Management and Financial Plan

Study participants with better self-control in childhood showed better preparedness in managing finances. They had more practical financial knowledge, had fewer financial problems, better credit ratings, and were more likely to have savings, investments, and retirement plans.

More Satisfied with Life

Better self-control in childhood resulted in adults feeling less lonely. They believe they were more socially-supported. Social life often declines after retirement due to old age, friends dying, and children moving away. Yet at age 45, study participants who had better self-control in childhood felt overall better satisfaction with life.

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