Intuitively we all know that the ability to control our behavior, thoughts, and emotions is very important in order to experience a fulfilling and successful life. In today’s society, these skills become essential because of the growing number of distractions and stimulations. Therefore it becomes necessary to have a good system of self-control that allows us to focus on what is important.
The relation between self-control abilities and different demographic, economic, and health indicators have been the subject of studies in different areas of the social and experimental sciences. There is data suggesting that adults with lower self-control abilities are more likely to experience adverse health conditions such as obesity, depression, and anxiety. As well as negative effects related to risky behavior like drug use, illnesses associated with STI transmission, etc.
Is It Possible That Self-Control Abilities Already Present in Childhood May Be Factors in Preventing Future Health Problems?
This was one of the questions that the study by Moffitt (et al. 2011) was trying to answer. In this study, the researchers performed a series of evaluations on participants to measure self-control abilities starting at age 3. Then they tracked them until age 32 by taking measures related to different economic, health, and social indicators.
The results of the study demonstrated that a relationship exists between self-control abilities in childhood and health indicators. Specifically, the study found that children with better self-control abilities have fewer negative health problems. Consequently, those related to obesity, STI’s, and substance abuse.
This data presents evidence suggesting that self-control abilities influence health aspects. This relationship may be due to the fact that self-control helps us to control the impulse to satisfy pleasurable needs immediately (for example, insatiable hunger, desires for pleasurable experiences, etc.) and on the contrary, it helps us be able to measure the consequences of our actions.
It is important to note that even though this study does not present data that establishes direct casual relationships, it does help us identify that self-control abilities are a factor in prevention. This way, intervention and treatment plans can be developed to help strengthen these skills to help prevent future problems in our children.
- Moffitt, T. E., L. Arseneault, D. Belsky, N. Dickson, R. J. Hancox, H. Harrington, R. Houts, et al. 2011. “A Gradient of Childhood Self-Control Predicts Health, Wealth, and Public Safety.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (7): 2693–98. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1010076108.
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