A Project of the Child Trends News Service Supported by the National Science Foundation

Self-Control in Kids

BOULDER, Co. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Research has shown that a child’s cognitive development, or ability to learn, is likely influenced by his or her parents. But there are other factors at play, too. New research shows that children’s actions may also be influenced by what their peers do.

Big sister Bella and brother Logan are great playmates.

Their mother, Heather Lofquist, told Ivanhoe, “She’s just very sensitive and likes to make friends, where Logan is a little bit more rambunctious.”

Like all kids, these two take their cues from mom and dad, but new research shows peer group behavior may also have an influence on cognitive development, specifically self-control.

“That develops dramatically between three and five years of age,” explained Sabine Doebel, PhD, a cognitive development scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

In a new study, Sabine Doebel used a marshmallow experiment to test self-control. She assigned kids to virtual groups and exposed them to two different conditions. She then watched to see if their actions were influenced by their beliefs about what their group and another group did. Doebel gave kids one marshmallow to eat right away, but said if they waited, they could have two. She then told them that kids in their group waited, but kids in the other group did not; or she told them the opposite.

“Kids who believed that their group waited for two marshmallows are themselves able to wait longer for that second marshmallow,” detailed Doebel.

Bella was in the study. She waited. . . patiently.

“The kids tended to say they waited because their group waited,” said Doebel.

The study suggests being part of a group affects the ability to delay, or self-control, even from a very young age.

“She was given a task and given a rule, and she just followed it to a T, and that’s kind of just how she is,” said Lofquist.

But Logan?

“I’m not sure Logan would have sat for 15 minutes and stared at a marshmallow,” said Lofquist.

Based on this research, Doebel said parents can talk about a child’s role model or hero to improve their self-control. For example, they can point out that the role model likes to be patient when dealing with his little sister.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Stacie Overton, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer.

Thank you to Dr. Sabine Doebel at the University of Colorado Boulder for providing footage.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Original research: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797617747367

Additional information from Dr. Sabine Doebel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EDl2INyJgw

Spanish Translation

BOULDER, Co. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Los estudios han comprobado que los padres ejercen la mayor influencia sobre el aprendizaje de sus hijos.

Bella y su hermano pequeño Logan son grandes compañeros de juego. Como todos los niños, sus guías son sus padres, pero según un nuevo estudio, el comportamiento de sus compañeros puede ejercer aún más influencia, específicamente sobre su habilidad para aprender el auto control, que se desarrolla entre los tres y los cinco años de edad. En un nuevo estudio, Sabine Doebel, PhD, usó un dulce para poner a prueba el auto control de los niños. Los participantes fueron separados en dos grupos, y se analizó si basaban su comportamiento en lo que pensaban el grupo completo estaba haciendo.

A cada niño se le dio un dulce, y se les dijo que se lo podían comer en ese momento, pero que si esperaban para comérselo, les darían dos en vez de uno. Doebel les informó que sus compañeros en su grupo sí esperaron a comérselo, pero los del otro grupo no. Los pequeños que pensaron que su grupo esperó por los dos dulces, pudieron contener las ganas de comerse inmediatamente el primer dulce. Bella participó en el estudio y esperó pacientemente. El estudio demuestra que pertenecer a un grupo afecta la habilidad de ejercer auto control desde la más tierna infancia, aunque la personalidad del niño también es importante.

Basándose en este estudio, Doebel sugiere que los padres pueden usar un personaje o héroe que sus hijos admiran como modelo a seguir, indicando por ejemplo como este personaje es paciente con sus hermanos pequeños.

Los contribuyentes a este reportaje incluyen: Cyndy McGrath, Supervisora Productora; Stacie Overton, Productora de Campo; Milvionne Chery, Productora; Roque Correa, Editor; Bruce Maniscalco, Camarografo.

Producido por Child Trends News Service en asocio con Ivanhoe Broadcast News y auspiciado por una beca de la National Science Foundation. 

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