The development of children’s sophistication about their self-control problems: An intervention in rural Bangladesh

Last registered on June 26, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

The development of children’s sophistication about their self-control problems: An intervention in rural Bangladesh
Initial registration date
June 26, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
June 26, 2022, 5:28 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
The University of Sydney
PI Affiliation
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn
PI Affiliation
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
DFG-Bewilligung SCHI 1377/1-2
Prior work
This trial is based on or builds upon one or more prior RCTs.
Low self-control in childhood is an important predictor of low income, financial problems, poor physical health, substance dependence, single parenthood and criminal offending in adulthood (Moffitt et al. 2011). However, we do not know yet whether children are aware of their own self-control problems and whether their possible sophistication about (awareness of) their self-control problems mitigates the adverse consequences of low self-control.

Behavioral theory predicts that people’s sophistication about their own self-control problems is integral to the choices they make (O’Donoghue and Rabin 1999, 2001). In their seminal theory paper, O’Donoghue and Rabin (1999) draw on the disparity in people’s ideal, predicted and actual choices to identify whether people lack self-control and, if they do, whether they are aware of it. Only few empirical studies directly measure naiveté and sophistication regarding own self-control problems for adults (Augenblick and Rabin 2019; Mandel et al. 2017; Wong 2008 etc.) and we are not aware of any work that does so for children.

Using a sample of about 3,000 households in rural Bangladesh, we assess the effectiveness of the Lions Quest Skills for Growing program in a new data collection about three years after its implementation in grades 2 to 5 in 2019. Lions Quest Skills for Growing is a school-based social and emotional learning (SEL) program that was taught in randomly assigned elementary schools in Bangladesh. In general, SEL programs aim at promoting self-awareness and self-management. Underlying skills that are specifically mentioned in the program documentation are, among others, self-discipline, impulse-control, or goal setting. Here, we examine whether the program affects levels of self-control and possible sophistication about self-control problems. We will use an experiment to measure self-control and the extent of sophistication to classify children as time-consistent, naïve or sophisticated regarding their self-control problems at the individual level. Apart from possible treatment effects, we will test the predictive power of our classification for child outcomes such as study attitude, grades, savings, prosociality, impulsive behavior, or risky behaviors. We can also document age trends and other determinants of self-control problems and sophistication such as gender as well as their relation with other skills and potential intergenerational transmissions.

This new data collection will start as soon as this registration will be reviewed.


Augenblick, N. and Rabin, M. (2019). An experiment on time preference and misprediction in unpleasant tasks. The Review of Economic Studies, 86(3):941-975.

Mandel, N., Scott, M. L., Kim, S., and Sinha, R. K. (2017). Strategies for improving self-control among naïve, sophisticated, and time-consistent consumers. Journal of Economic Psychology, 60:109-125.

Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J., Harrington, H., Houts, R., Poulton, R., Roberts, B. W., Ross, S., Sears, M. R., Thomson, W. M., and Caspi, A. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(7):2693-2698.

O'Donoghue, T. and Rabin, M. (1999). Doing it now or later. American Economic Review, 89(1):103-124.

O'Donoghue, T. and Rabin, M. (2001). Choice and procrastination. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 116(1):121-160.

Schilbach, F. (2019). Alcohol and self-control: A field experiment in India. American Economic Review, 109(4):1290-1322.

Wong, W.-K. (2008). How much time-inconsistency is there and does it matter? Evidence on self-awareness, size, and effects. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 68(3):645-656.

External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Breitkopf, Laura et al. 2022. "The development of children’s sophistication about their self-control problems: An intervention in rural Bangladesh." AEA RCT Registry. June 26.
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Experimental Details


The intervention consists of conveying the content of the “Lions Quest Skills for Growing Program” (SfG) during school hours in participating schools. As a social and emotional learning (SEL) program, SfG aims at helping children to make good decisions, among others in terms of forward-looking behaviors such self-discipline, impulse-control, or goal-setting. Please see for more information.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Classification of individuals (children and subset of their parents) as time-consistent, naïve or sophisticated regarding their self-control problem: three mutually exclusive dummy variables; continuous measures to capture extent of self-control problems and sophistication (partial naiveté)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The experiment will be based on a real-effort task for which no specific skills are required: counting zeros in 10x10-tables containing zeros and ones. For classification, three measures will be used: the number of solved tables participants consider ideal for themselves (1. “ideal”), the number of tables they predict to solve correctly (2. “prediction”) and the actual number of correctly solved tables (3. “actual”). More specifically:

1. Participants will be asked for the subjectively ideal plan for themselves (ideal): “What do you consider the ideal plan for yourself: how many tables should you ideally solve correctly?”
2. Participants will be asked for their prediction regarding the number of solved tables (prediction): “What do you think will really happen? How many tables do you predict you will actually solve correctly?”
3. Actual: how many tables has the participant solved correctly?

Participants will be classified as time-consistent if prediction >= ideal and actual >= ideal. Participants will be classified as naïve if prediction >= ideal and actual < ideal. Participants will be classified as sophisticated if prediction < ideal.

The extent of self-control problems will be measured by comparing ideal plan and actual result: (ideal–actual)/ideal. The extent of sophistication with respect to self-control problems will be measured by the share of his or her self-control problem that the participant predicts: (ideal–prediction)/(ideal–actual).

Payments for correctly solved tables will be age-specific.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We have a single treatment and a single control group. The 135 primary schools in our sample are divided into 69 treatment and 66 control group schools by stratified randomization. In cooperation with Lions Clubs International, we implemented the social and emotional learning (SEL) program Lions Quest Skills for Growing (PreK-5) in grades 2 to 5 of the 69 treatment schools. The remaining 66 schools in the control group did not receive any treatment.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization was done in an office by a computer, more specifically using STATA. In order to gain a balanced treatment-control group setting, we stratified by subdistrict (our schools are located in 11 subdistricts differing in their schooling authorities and hence their educational environment), by distance of the school to its respective subdistrict capital (as a proxy for schooling quality) and village literacy rate. No re-randomization was done but the first draw taken.
Randomization Unit
The treatment was randomized on school level.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Treatment was assigned to 69 out of a total of 135 schools (hence, 66 schools in control group). These schools are serving 150 villages that we randomly selected from 11 subdistricts (chosen based on the availability of NGOs willing to collaborate) belonging to four districts of Bangladesh.
Sample size: planned number of observations
3,000 households from the 150 villages that are served by the 135 primary schools in our sample; sampled by selecting at least 20 children from grades 2 to 5 of each school in 2019 – larger samples from schools serving multiple sample villages, e.g. 40 children per school if the school serves two villages. We have a sample that covers about 3,000 pupils attending grades 2 to 5 in 2019 plus information on at least one of their siblings (if they have siblings, the additionally sampled sibling is chosen randomly).
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
69 schools in treatment group, 66 schools in control group
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ethikkommission an der Medizinischen Fakultät der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number