Self-control is the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior in the face of temptations and impulses, which is an aspect of inhibitory control. It gives us the capacity to override an impulse in order to respond appropriately. (1)
Self-control is a cognitive process that is required in order to achieve specific goals. (1)
To have a measure of self-control we must all monitor our thoughts, have some kind of personal standards, and possess emotional strength. Yet how might we predict young people’s self-control when at such a young age, they may not have much wisdom or life experience when it comes to knowing what’s good or bad for them? (2)
A recent study by Amy Gentzler and Nicholas Turiano from the West Virginia Department of Psychology suggests three things can determine the level of a young person’s expected self-control:
- Their attachment to their parents, particularly their mothers.
- If their parent’s behaviors were previously inconsistent or if their parents were regularly unavailable.
- Current stressors in the kids lives. (3)
Self-Control And Kids
Joining a new club that piques a new interest, participating in a new sport, or making new friends may be as indicative of a college freshman’s loss of self-control as drinking or drug use.
‘‘One of the points of going to college is to go out and try new things’’, said Kirsten Moilanen, associate professor of child development and family studies. This stands for both ‘good’ or ‘bad’ things.
She further stated ‘There may be some value in finding out who needs reining in or training in decision making that they need to slow down and think.’
569 first-year students, ages 18-19, were observed at five points throughout the academic year. The first wave of the study was completed two weeks before arriving on campus, and the other four were completed over the course of the year. (3)
Students who were less interested in trying new things maintained stable control throughout the year. Self-control tendencies in first-year students are also influenced by their attachment to their parents, particularly their mothers.
“They’re responsive,” Moilanen summarized. “They get along well; their relationship is predictable, and they know what their parents will do and how they will react.” They don’t try to hide their errors from their parents.”
A reverse revelation was that the students who were detached from their parents were more likely to tread more dangerous behavioral waters. This is believed to stem from parents who were unavailable or inconsistent, making their children tend to push other people away, dismissing the importance of parental attachment.
An important resolution from the study was to note that screening for insecure attachment and personality dimensions may be useful for identifying first-year college students who could benefit from discrete targeted early interventions – especially those who aren’t as attached to their mothers.
Lastly, stressors can be disruptive to self-control, even small stressors. Young people arrive at college thinking it is going to be all fun and games, yet a more accurate representation is that a lot can be expected from them, leading to stress.
It is thought from the study that students may benefit from connecting with peers, and building support systems, on top of support from their parents.
Self-control and kids is an important thought, especially during the delicate student or campus years. Revealing studies like this may go on to help teenagers who are more easily stressed, and for those who are not so close to their families. (3)