Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Blessings of Self-Control

In a recent survey published online January 24, 2011 entitled, "A Gradient of Childhood Self-Control Predicts Health, Wealth, and Public Safety" studied more than 1,000 children from birth to age 32 and found that the kids who scored lowest on measures of self-control - those who were more impulsive and easily frustrated and had the most trouble with delaying gratification or waiting their turn in line - were roughly three times as likely by adulthood to report having multiple health problems and addictions, earning less than $20,000 per year, becoming a single parent or committing a crime than kids with the most self-control.

The findings above seem to agree with tests conducted years ago, one such being, "The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment".  Walter Mischel of Stanford University conducted a deferred gratification study in 1972 using marshmallows.

Over 600 children ages four to six at the Bing Nursery School located at Stanford University were each led into a room, empty of distractions, where a marshmallow was placed on a table.  The children could eat the marshmallow, the researchers said, but if they waited for fifteen minutes without giving in to the temptation, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow.
Mischel observed as some would "cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so that they wouldn't be able to see the tray, others starting kicking the desk, or tugged on their pigtails, or stroke the marshmallow as if it were a tiny stuffed animal", while others would simply eat the marshmallow as soon as the researchers left the area.
The results:  A minority ate the marshmallows immediately, while a third deferred gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow.

Over the years, Mischel has conducted follow-up studies, his 1988 study showed when the preschool children from his Marshmallow Study, who delayed gratification longer, became adolescents, their parents rated them as more academically and socially competent, verbally fluent, rational, attentive, planful, and able to deal well with frustration and stress.

Another study in 1990, entitled, "Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Self-Regulatory Competencies From Preschool Delay of Gratification:  Identifying Diagnostic Conditions", showed that the ability to delay gratification also correlated with higher SAT scores.  Those who delayed longer in preschool were rated as more likely to exhibit self-control in frustrating situations, less likely to yield to temptation, more intelligent, and less distractable when trying to concentrate.  They also are more likely to attend college, getting good grades, they also tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI), a clean criminal record and when the time comes, a higher annual income.

Children who were able to put up with temporary discomfort in exchange for a future reward are now more successful in almost every measurable way.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Galatians 5:22,23a

Shared with: the healthy home economist