Mother Knows Best? The Influence of Maternal Modelling on Preschool Children's Ability to Delay Gratification
Young children’s ability to exhibit self-control has been linked to a wide range of positive outcomes later in life, providing a strong impetus for improving this skill in young children. While previous theorists suggested that self-control can be trained like a muscle, support for this approach is dwindling. We propose that mechanisms for improving self-control should aim to utilise children’s natural resources. The current study investigated how maternal talk and behaviour during the delay-of-gratification maintenance task (i.e., the marshmallow test) influenced pre-schoolers ability to delay gratification. Twenty-six 30- to 36-month-old children participated in two sessions, one in which their mother was encouraged to help them delay gratification (i.e., the Maternal condition) and the other in which the mother was asked not to intervene (i.e., the Control condition). Maternal talk and behaviour was coded as “distraction” or “reward” oriented and correlated with children’s wait times. Repeated measures ANOVA revealed that maternal talk about the reward during the maternal condition was negatively related to children’s wait times in both the maternal and control conditions. In contrast, mothers’ distraction techniques and talk did not significantly influence children’s ability to delay gratification. These findings are discussed in relation to the effects that reward saliency and the development of episodic memory play in young children’s ability exhibit self-control in the presence of tempting stimuli.
Advisor: Scarf, Damian
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Maternal Influence; Social Modelling; Delay of Gratification; Marshmellow Task; Maternal Talk; Self Control; Preschoolers; Executive Function; Maternal Modelling; Modelling
Research Type: Thesis