Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Naomi Friedman

Abstract

Research on self-control often groups many traits under a more general reference to sheer power of will. This study seeks to examine whether or not this broad descriptor can be further broken down into more specific proclivities to get at the question of what specifically motivates such inhibition in children, a population where the concept of self-control is more challenging to identify. Data came from the Colorado Longitudinal Twin Study, which included a behavior prohibition task used to measure self-control in children aged 14 – 36 months. The task required them to restrain themselves, for 30 seconds, from playing with a toy placed in front of them. I regressed adolescent personality traits (harm avoidance and novelty seeking) on ability to wait (measured as latency to touch the toy), controlling for sex. I also examined genetic contributions to these measures. The results supported a relationship between latency scores in toddlerhood and both personality traits in adolescence; Longer latencies at 3 years old were predictive of higher harm avoidance scores and lower novelty seeking scores at age 17 within some of the conditions. Extensions of this study might look into further isolating particular behaviors that constitute general self-control abilities, to examine whether or not such tendencies persist throughout development.

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