Children unlucky enough to be born into poverty, or with absent fathers, have been proven to be less successful in life because they lack the ability to delay gratification. They almost always choose to grab what they can immediately, and not postpone gratification in the hopes of getting more. This lack of self control leads to juvenile delinquency, poor performance in school, and lack of economic opportunities. Simply put, weak cognitive self control plus deviant opportunity equals crime and other negative social outcomes.
A classic definition of weak cognitive self control include impulsiveness, low frustration tolerance, self-centeredness, bullying behavior and risk taking behavior. Studies indicate that when parental discipline, nurturing and monitoring are absent, children are at a greater risk for weak cognitive self control. It makes sense that parents who exhibit weak self control are those most likely to have children that exhibit weak self control. This is because proper parenting requires extensive effort, patience and consistent structure, not likely to be found in the homeless community. Studies indicate a significant link between low maternal self control and low child self control, as many of these families have absent fathers.
According to a study done by Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) it was shown that parents or other important adults have a major impact on whether or not a child develops good cognitive self control. The parents set ground rules, provide structure and discipline, teach consequences, and provide adequate socialization for their children. They monitor their offspring and teach right from wrong. When four conditions are present (care, monitor, recognize, and correct) children learn to avoid situations with long term negative consequences. Studies have shown that all four conditions must be present for the child to learn self-control. There is also the contention that self control is stable once the child passes the ages of 8 or 10 years of age. Good children tend to remain good, while those lacking self control continue to be worrisome to parents and teachers, and could lead to juvenile delinquency. This suggests that the window of opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life occurs in early childhood. Any teacher can identify those children at risk. For example, if a child is disruptive in the classroom in second or third grade, he would be identified as a child who requires intervention to learn self control techniques. Parents would be brought into the discussion and taught the four conditions necessary for learning self control (care, monitor, recognize and correct), and work in conjunction with the teacher to establish ground rules to put the child on a positive path.
Instilling self control in this at-risk population would result in the ability to make rational decisions based on consequences. They would develop social bonds that could impede deviant behavior. Homeless children and young adults are presented with many opportunities for deviant behavior while faced with trying to fulfill basic needs such as food and shelter. Early intervention through parental education and societal resources could result in a much better outcome for homeless children.
“Childhood Maltreatment and Self Control among Homeless Young Adults.” University of Nebraska- Lincoln, 1 Dec. 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.
“The Stability of Self-control.” The Stability of Self-control. Journal of Criminal Justice, 2002. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.