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Self-discipline or self-control describes a steady and self- controlled behavior that maintains or brings about a state by using efforts that counteract the distractions from a goal.

Several long-term studies over the last few decades have shown that the degree of self-discipline in childhood determined in tests and investigations was a sure indicator of multiple success in later adult life. The most impressive study to date in this regard is the 2011 Dunedin study from New Zealand.

Cultural expressions


The English variant of self-discipline, which forbids showing both vulnerability and exuberant joy, is called keeping a stiff upper lip (“ keeping a stiff upper lip ”). The constant maintenance of posture can already be seen in the characters in Shakespeare's work. The stiff upper lip reached its peak during the Empire and was promoted by the public schools after they reformed in the second half of the 19th century. Since the 1960s, this ideal has increasingly faded.


The French variant of self-discipline is Contenance , especially in the upper classes .

Predictive power of self-control

In an extremely comprehensive longitudinal study from 2011, it became apparent that self-control skills during childhood, such as self-discipline , conscientiousness and perseverance , had a strong influence on later successes in life, such as health , material well-being and satisfaction , regardless of intelligence and social status . At the same time, these traits resulted in lower social costs in later life through medical treatment , social benefits, and law enforcement .

For the study could be made of the enormous amount of data a now world-famous long-term study in New Zealand, "multidisciplinary health and development study Dunedin " (The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study) . This ongoing project includes data on 1037 people who were born between April 1, 1972 and March 31, 1973 and (so far) ages 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 21, 26 , 32 and 38 years of age have been extensively examined medically and their living conditions have been precisely recorded not only through surveys, but also through other information channels. What is special about this longitudinal study is not only the large number of participants, but also their permanent motivation to continue to participate. In the previous examination at the age of 38, 96% of those still alive (from all over the world) came back. The shrinkage was only 10–20% of the usual, which resulted in a high level of reliability in the data analysis.

Neurobiology of Self-Discipline

The ability to delay reward was examined in humans by comparing failures after brain injuries (e.g. stroke ) and by imaging tests in healthy individuals. A network of different brain regions is involved, but the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) plays a central role. Damage in this area increases the likelihood that an instant, small reward will be chosen. It is believed that this area of ​​the brain is involved in impact assessment or forward thinking.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Self-discipline  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. TE Moffitt , L. Arseneault, D. Belsky, N. Dickson, RJ Hancox, H. Harrington, R. Houts, R. Poulton, BW Roberts, S. Ross, MR Sears, WM Thomson, A. Caspi: A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108 (7), 2011, pp. 2693-2698, PMID 21262822
  2. ^ Terrie E. Moffitt , Avshalom Caspi, Richie Poulton: A better life thanks to early self-control. Spectrum of Science 12/2014, pp. 40–47 ( online ).
  3. Review article on the Dunedin Study website: Children with more self-control turn into healthier and wealthier adults. January 25, 2011 ( Memento of the original from January 13, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. ^ The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, website
  5. Manuela Sellitto, Elisa Ciaramelli, Giuseppe di Pellegrino: The neurobiology of intertemporal choice: insight from imaging and lesion studies . In: Reviews in the Neurosciences . tape 22 , no. 5 , 2011, ISSN  0334-1763 , p. 565-574 , doi : 10.1515 / RNS.2011.046 , PMID 21967518 .