Self-regulation has frequently been shown to be context-sensitive, suggesting the influence of different cultural contexts on its development. However, up until now, self-regulation has been mainly studied in Western countries with similar cultural contexts.
Thus, with the present study we compared self-regulation of preschool children in Iran and Germany, hypothesizing that self-regulation differs between these two countries.
In total, 148 preschool children (n = 100 Iranian, n = 48 German) participated in this study. Self-regulation was operationalized as waiting in the delay of gratification task. Moreover, behavioral strategies (i.e., focusing, withholding, and distracting) used by children while waiting in the task were video recorded and later rated using a behavioral rating scale.
On average, Iranian children waited less time than their German peers and used fewer withholding strategies to stop themselves from touching the reward. Interestingly, focusing strategies directing attention towards the reward undermined the waiting time in the delay of gratification task for German but not Iranian children.
Our findings are consistent with previous cross-cultural/national studies in suggesting that childhood self-regulation may be developed and applied differently depending on cultural context. However, based on our results, the assumption that children from Eastern countries generally show a greater level of self-regulation than children from Western countries as discussed in previous cross-cultural/national studies is to be viewed critically.
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The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the first or corresponding author on reasonable request.
All children who did not wait for 25 min in the delay of gratification task, despite their different waiting times, were grouped in one category (i.e., did not wait for 25 min) and the investigation of factors that enhanced or decreased the probability of waiting was limited due to this restricted grouping. Thus, to cover all waiting times, correlation matrix for the waiting time as the continuous outcome variable and study measures is presented separately for Iranian and German children who did not wait for 25 min in the delay of gratification task in Appendix B. The results showed no significant correlations between waiting time and study measures in both groups.
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We would like to thank all participating families and children. This research was funded by a grant from German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD): Research Scholarship for Doctorate students and young researchers for more than 6 months, 2014/15 (57048249) to PN and budget funds from the School Psychology and Diagnostics and Cognitive Neuropsychology research groups. We would also like to thank Azarmidokht Elahi, Mina Habibnejad Behtash, Farimah Tabei, and Toba Setayeshfar in Iran and Anne Eppinger, Anna Schwarz, and Lisa Margaretha Mauel in Germany for supporting our data recruitment and analysis and Zoe Lauren Kirste and Sebastian Sandbrink for their help in language proofreading of the manuscript.
Conflict of Interest
The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. All authors have seen and agree with the contents of the manuscript and there is no financial interest to report.
The study was approved by the ethics committee of the Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran (No. approval: IR.TUMS.VCR.REC.1395.206) and the local ethics committee of the University of Tübingen in Germany (No. approval: EK-Antrag-Revision_1_Gawrilow_2017_0331_57).
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Nemati, P., Kühnhausen, J., Mehri, A. et al. Delay of Gratification in Iranian and German Preschool Children. Child Youth Care Forum 52, 855–874 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-022-09710-z