By age 3 environmental factors like parenting are relevant to the development of self-control

Posted on April 16, 2016

“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.


Category(s):Child Development

Source material from The University of Texas at Arlington


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