Peter Reavey

Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Cynthia Erdley

Second Committee Member

Janice Zeman

Third Committee Member

Douglas Nangle


The present study is an investigation of the development of behavioral selfcontrol during the preschool period. Using a developmental psychopathology perspective, the construct of delay ability is proposed, and is conceptualized as the converse of impulsivity. Sixty-three boys and girls between the ages of 36- and 75- months completed three laboratory tasks that required them to wait for rewards. One parent and the head teacher of each child participant completed behavior rating scales that were designed to index children's impulsivity and social competence. Receptive verbal ability and demographic information were also obtained for each child. Of specific interest in data analysis are developmental differences, gender differences, intercorrelation of laboratory measures and behavior ratings, and incremental validity of assessing delay ability as distinct from measures of receptive verbal ability and demographic information. The results indicate that the laboratory tasks were developmentally sensitive, largely related to adults' ratings of the children's behavior, primarily independent of receptive verbal intelligence and demographic characteristics, and not significantly correlated with gender, or with one another. With respect to the behavior rating scales, these were shown to be developmentally sensitive, largely correlated with one another, primarily unrelated to receptive verbal ability and demographic characteristics, and strongly correlated with gender. These results suggest that children's performance on these laboratory tasks was influenced primarily by age, whereas the behavior ratings were influenced by both age and gender. Consistent with previous studies, results suggest that impulsivity is a multi-dimensional construct that should be assessed using a multi-trait and multi-method approach. Findings are discussed in relationship to normative development and clinical decision-making, and areas in need of further research are highlighted.