Children better at delaying Gratification are more likely to be better in Academics

Children better at delaying Gratification are more likely to be better in Academics


Two professors of NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Dr Chen Luxi and Jean Yeung published a study on “Delayed Gratification Predicts Behavioural and Academic Outcomes: Examining the Validity of the Delay-of-Gratification Choice Paradigm in Singaporean Young Children” funded by the Ministry of Education Social Science Research Thematic Grant. They used Nationally representative data. The study was quite similar to the “Stanford Marshmallow Experiment” conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel in 1970, where a number of children participated. The participants were asked to choose between one small but immediate reward and two small after some time.

The purpose of the study was to measure gratification delay among Singaporean young children. In the study, children were asked to choose between the “now” and “later” options. The research findings showed the children preferred the smaller but immediate rewards over the larger rewards after 10 minutes. A total of 9 test trials were taken. The study highlighted the development of self-regulation in Asian children same as the focus of the marshmallow test on Western children. Almost 3,000 Singaporean preschool children participated in the study.

The whole process was divided into two phases. At first, they worked on children’s working memory and delay of gratification, and how parents rate their children’s self-control. In the second phase (after two years) the same batch of children was studied for behavioural issues and academic achievement and. Also, factors like socioeconomic status, age, sex, and educational background influenced the result.

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Preschool girls usually performed better than preschool boys on the delay of gratification choice tasks. Prof Yeung and Dr Chen also found out that children belonging to parents of lower education backgrounds showed delayed gratification at an older age. Also children with greater self-restraint are willing to delay their gratification and also tend to have better self-control and working memory, better academic skills and less emotional and behavioural problems after two years.

“The findings have practical implications. It revealed that having greater self-regulation in early childhood, including having a greater ability to delay gratification, more advanced working memory, and stronger self-control in their daily lives, can predict children’s more excellent academic achievement and positive behavioural development later in life. Our findings underscore the importance of incorporating self-regulation into future interventions and educational programmes. It is crucial to nurture children’s emotional, cognitive, and behavioural self-regulation during the preschool years, to enhance their school readiness and build a good foundation for their socioemotional functioning and academic skills in formal schooling” said Dr. Chen.

Source – National University of Singapore

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