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The Development of Children's Knowledge of Self-Control Strategies

Harriet Nerlove Mischel and Walter Mischel
Child Development
Vol. 54, No. 3 (Jun., 1983), pp. 603-619
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130047
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130047
Page Count: 17
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The Development of Children's Knowledge of Self-Control Strategies
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Abstract

2 studies traced the development of metacognitions about self-control in children through grade 6. The results indicated that children begin to understand 2 basic rules for effective delay of gratification by about the end of their fifth year: cover rather than expose the rewards, and engage in task-oriented rather than in consummatory ideation while waiting. By grade 6, children significantly indicated that abstract ideation would help delay more than consummatory ideation. In the delay paradigm, young 4-year-olds seem to create self-defeating dilemmas for themselves by choosing (or even creating) a tempting environment without adequately anticipating that they will be unable to execute strategies to overcome the temptation. This preference for the delay-defeating strategy (exposing the rewards) waned toward the end of the fourth year and was replaced by a growing preference for the delay-facilitating strategy (covering the rewards). Theoretical reasons for this developmental course were discussed.

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