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.