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.