Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Study links environment/parenting to childhood self-control

Public Release: 14-Apr-2016
Study links environment/parenting to childhood self-control
University of Texas at Arlington

University of Texas at Arlington researchers have found that by age 3 environmental influences such as parenting are relevant factors in the development of toddlers' self-control when they are asked not to do something they want to do, such as run into the street or eat a forbidden snack.

"Understanding the development of self-control mechanisms is vital as individuals with low levels of inhibitory control develop more cognitive and socio-emotional development issues, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD," said Jeffrey Gagne, an assistant professor of psychology in UTA's College of Science and co-author of the study.

"Currently, most developmental issues are diagnosed after the child enters school," Gagne said. "If we could identify and intervene with problems earlier, we could improve their responses before they reach school and their outcomes once they get there and beyond, even through adolescence."


The researchers studied 300 pairs of twins and measured their inhibitory control through interviews with their parents and also by testing and videoing their responses to temperament assessments in a laboratory setting. The tests were repeated at age 2 and age 3, both times within a month of their birthdays.

While parent interviews suggested that genetics remains a key factor in these behaviors at age 3, detailed analysis of the videotaped laboratory behavioral assessments showed that genetic influences were significant at age 2 but not at age 3.

"By age 3, we see that one twin's exposure to either shared family influences or unique environmental influences such as more or less negativity from parents, or an accident or illness the co-twin did not experience, are both important influences over their capacity for self-regulation," Gagne said.

"With a sensitive laboratory-based protocol for measuring inhibitory control, we could map out the traits in early childhood that would suggest susceptibility for certain disorders and potentially help these children faster," he added.


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