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Young children's self-control influenced by peers

Dive Brief:

  • Self-control, one of several skills that falls under the category known as executive function, is shaped in early-childhood and influenced by what children think their friends are doing, according to a recent study from researchers at University of Colorado Boulder.
  • Published in the journal Psychological Science, the study showed that when preschoolers were told that members of their “in group” decided to wait for two marshmallows instead of getting one right away, they were twice as likely to wait for two themselves.
  • “Typically, self-control has been thought of as a trait that a child has or doesn’t have,” lead author Sabine Doebel said in a press release. “Ours is the first study to show that group behavior and group norms influence self-control in children.” The researchers recommend exposing young children to role models — both fictional and in real life — who demonstrate self-control.

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