The special role of middle childhood in self-control development: Longitudinal and genetic evidence

Roni Pener-Tessler*, Noam Markovitch, Ariel Knafo-Noam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Despite the importance of self-control for well-being and adjustment, its development from early childhood to early adolescence has been relatively understudied. We addressed the development of mother-reported self-control in what is likely the largest and longest longitudinal twin study of the topic to this day (N = 1889 individual children with data from at least one of five waves: ages 3, 5, 6.5, 8–9 and 11 years). We examined rank-order change in self-control from early childhood to early adolescence, genetic and environmental contributions to variance in the trait and differential developmental trajectories. The relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors to change and stability was also examined. Results point at middle childhood as a period of potential transition and change. During this period the rank-order stability of self-control increases, heritability rates substantially rise, and a cross-over occurs in two of the self-control trajectories. Nonadditive genetic effects contribute to both stability and change in self-control while the nonshared environment contributes mostly to change, with no effect for the shared environment. Our findings suggest that new genetic factors, that emerge around age 6.5 and whose effect on self-control is carried on along development, may partially account for changes in self-control around late middle childhood, and explain the growing stability in the trait approaching early adolescence. We discuss the implications of the special role of middle childhood for self-control development.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere13270
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Developmental Science published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • longitudinal twin study
  • middle childhood
  • personality development
  • self-control
  • stability and change


Dive into the research topics of 'The special role of middle childhood in self-control development: Longitudinal and genetic evidence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this