The present studies were intended to detail developmental differences in self-regulatory failure. Study 1 is a downward extension (4-year-old children) of the standard dual-task approach to investigating self-regulatory failure in adults. In Study 1, 4-year-old participants (N = 61) were administered a consecutive dual-task paradigm (Baumeister et al., 1998). While this approach has been quite fruitful in the study of adult self-regulation, individual differences in self-control in children likely overshadowed any potential evidence for self-regulatory failure in Study 1. Indeed, 4-year-old children are in the early stages of the development of self-control, and demonstrate marked differences in performance and ability to self-regulate. Study 2 utilized a modified approach to the study of self-regulatory failure, informed by the extensive individual differences seen in Study 1. Participants ages 4 (n = 45), 6 (n = 55), and 8 years (n = 46), were given a within-subjects, pre-post self-control task. Each participant completed a tangram task, a 5-minute direction following task, and then another tangram task. While Study 2 does replicate the null findings of Study 1 with respect to condition differences in future persistence (direction following versus neutral), Study 2 also provides potential evidence for an alternative manifestation of performance failure. Wherein persistence on a difficult tangram after a direction following task is significantly less than persistence before the direction task (F (2, 144) = 8.76, p < .01). This effect was consistently found in all three age groups, even though older children (6 and 8 years) were found to persist significantly longer than younger children (4 years) (Tukey HSD = -85.07, p < .05; Tukey HSD = -119.29, p < .01, respectively). These results highlight the potential early onset of self-regulatory failure, as well as the necessity for the study of individual differences leading to differential magnitude of self-regulatory failure.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2012. Major: Child Psychology. Advisors: Philip David Zelazo, Stephanie M. Carlson. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 62 pages, appendices A-B.
Cowell, Jason Michael.
A developmental perspective of Self-regulatory failure in preschool and middle childhood..
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