Sample Psychology Paper on Effects of Energy Levels on Self-Control among Children


The effects of energy levels on self-control among children are explored in this paper. An experimental procedure in which 10 participants were involved was used in this study. The participants were children aged 3-5 years from the kindergarten class at the YMCA Child Care Centre. The findings show that high energy levels are associated with high levels of self-control among children and that in individuals with high innate self-control, the effects of energy levels are negligible.

Keywords: self-control, energy levels, reliability, validity.


Effects of Energy Levels on Self-Control among Children

Self-control is defined as the ability to regulate individual behavior, attitudes, emotions, and attention. This attribute is mostly developed during childhood and is enhanced into childhood. The ability to control oneself is determined by various factors in childhood through adulthood, and understanding the specific aspects that influence self-control is essential towards understanding how to leverage various processes towards attaining the benefits of self-control. Self-control can be learned. Among children, teachers play an essential role in training self-control through various activities and their interactions with children. The practice of self-control among young children has been linked to various mediating factors. In a classroom set-up, for instance, it has been shown that energy levels can influence self-control among children, whereby high energy levels are associated with high levels of self-control.

In this study, the concept of self-control among children in kindergarten was explored. The objective of the research was to determine the influence of energy levels on the self-control behavior of children. The null hypothesis was that:

  • H0: High energy levels result in better self-control among children in kindergarten.

The alternative hypothesis for this study was that:

  • H1: High energy levels do not necessarily promote self-control among children in kindergarten.

The energy levels variable was explored based on group participation in various activities at different times after a nap to effectively evaluate the hypotheses. The time was varied from 20 minutes after a nap to 3 hours following a nap.  Self-control was evaluated using a Teacher’s Self-Control Rating Scale (TSCRS) with 15 items.

The rest of this paper is as follows: the second section contains the literature review, which presents an overview of past pieces of literature on the subject. This segment is followed by the methods section, which describes the participants and the research methodologies. The results section then follows, and it presents the study findings. Thereafter, the discussion section is presented, whereby the findings are analyzed. The last section is the conclusion, and it gives a recap of the paper contents.

Literature Review

The link between self-control and various factors, such as energy level and the presence of a reward, has been explored by different scholars in the past. For instance, Mulder et al. (2019) describe self-control as a voluntary behavior in which motivation plays a crucial role in the choice between alternative actions. Children can choose to either practice self-control or not depending on both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation factors. In this study, energy levels are considered as the intrinsic motivation that can drive self-control among children. Tao, Wang, Fan, and Gao (2014) contend that individuals with a strong intrinsic motivation, defined as good self-control, engage in tasks more attentively, and their behaviors are characterized with careful planning and good control, indicating better self-control capabilities in the absence of any promises of external rewards. On the other hand, individuals with low intrinsic motivation are more likely to exhibit heightened self-control in the presence of a probable reward (Tao et al., 2014). These findings show that the energy level and the reward variables are mutually exclusive. Therefore, the self-control variable can be considered as a function of a combination of two mutually-exclusive factors. the subsequent sub-sections describe the consideration of the independent effects of the two variables on self-control.

Energy Levels and Self-Control

Various studies on the impacts of energy levels on self-control among young children have been conducted. In the one conducted by Miller et al. (2010), it was reported that human self-control depends on biological mechanisms, such as the presence of glucose in the bloodstream. The presence of glucose indicates high energy levels and was reported to result in high self-control. Similarly, a study by Gailliot (2013) reported that the levels of hunger determined the levels of self-control among participants. In the study, Gailliot (2013) used hunger as an indicator of low energy levels. He also used performance in a Stroop task as the indicator for self-control and attention. The combination of the two findings, therefore, shows a positive correlation between self-control and the energy levels possessed by a participant.

Besides experimental procedures that use hunger or food consumption as an indicator of energy levels in participants, other studies have used internal motivation as the determinant of self-control. Particularly, some researchers have shown a cause-effect relationship between self-control and energy levels, explained using hunger. Puiu (2018), for instance, reported that individuals with high self-control levels consistently exhibit high energy and are not prone to feelings of hunger. This finding confirms that while low energy levels can result in low self-control, high self-control can sufficiently limit feelings of low energy.

Many researchers have indicated that self-control is an internal resource that can be depleted. The perception that self-control can be exhausted is an indication that the strength of self-control depends on the level utilization, which is closely linked to residual energy levels. According to Ampel, Muraven, and McNay (2018), the glucose model of self-control may not be sufficiently physiologically plausible in describing self-control behaviors among children. As such, Ampel et al. propose the depletion model of self-control, which asserts that since glucose levels affect psychological processes holistically, they can be used to explain the concept of self-control depletion. Furthermore, research shows that the self-control depletion process is not a function of other factors, such as mood, arousal, and various other psychological processes, but a function of the degree of self-control that has been exerted before. This argument can be likened to that presented by Kelley, Finley, and Schmeichel (2019), who associated self-control with aversive outcomes. According to Kelley et al. (2019), people need external motivation to consistently exhibit self-control. These studies indicate that there is a need for replenishment once self-control has been exerted over time.

Most of the studies explored in this literature review have provided adequate evidence of the correlations between self-control and energy levels based on glucose levels as the variable indicating energy levels. There are also studies that propose the depletion model of self-control, which suggests that the amount of self-control exerted previously determines that which can be exerted. However, a gap in literature still exists since very few studies have focused on children as the participants. Moreover, none of the studies explored has examined the effects of rest periods on the levels of self-control. Therefore, this study addresses this gap, and kindergarten students are the participants. The study is observational and focuses on energy levels, measured through the extent of rest prior to exertion.


a qualitative study based on an observational technique is conducted to attain the intended outcomes of this study. A total of 10 participants were involved in the observation activities.


The participants of this research were ten children from the YMCA Child Care Center. All the children belonged in the kindergarten class and were included randomly based on individual willingness to participate and on a first-come-first-served basis.


The study methodology involved observation of student groups by teachers, who noted down any time a student engages in a particular activity that indicates a violation of self-control. The required materials will, therefore, be notebooks and pens for use by the teachers. The TSCRS was also required. In the scale, the dimensions of self-control were categorized into task-relevant solitary behavior, task-relevant social behavior, task-irrelevant social behavior, and task-irrelevant solitary behavior.

The TSCRS items were modified to reflect all the forms of misbehavior (indicating lack of self-control), for ease of results interpretation and compilation. For a five-point scale, the total scores would be 75. The highest score indicates the least self-control capability. The items of the scale are as follows:

TSCRS Items:

  1. Does not stick to what she or he is doing, particularly lengthy unpleasant tasks.
  2. Does not work toward goals.
  3. Fails to complete assignments when the adult is not watching
  4. Is frustrated and/or gives up on difficult tasks
  5. Does not pay attention to what she or he is doing
  6. Does not plan ahead what to do before acting
  7. Is distracted from work or responsibilities
  8. Makes careless mistakes because she or he rushes through work
  9. Anticipates the consequences of his/her actions
  10. Does not know when she or he is misbehaving without being told
  11. Has to have things right away
  12. Get into arguments and/or fights with other children
  13. Talks out of turn
  14. Disrupts others when they are doing things
  15. Has trouble keeping promises to improve behavior.


The procedure followed for this observational study was designed as a goal-directed solitary following the observational model version developed by Kirshenbaum, Steffen, and D’Orta (1978). The independent variable of the research was taken to be the time interval following a nap. The observations were made in two stages. The first one was carried out immediately after the first 20 minutes after a nap, while the second stage observations were made 3 hours after the said nap. The same group of five children was observed in each case, and each observation ran for 20 minutes. Two teachers were involved in each observation, and they recorded the children’s behaviors on a five-point frequency scale based on the TSCRS.

Each time a child did any of the items listed, the teacher indicates with a mark on the row to which that item belongs. The total counts were made after the completion of the exercise, and the children scored between 1 and 5 for each item, depending on their frequency of exhibiting that behavior.


The results obtained are as shown in table 1 below. The findings were recorded anonymously, with the names of the children coded to hide their identities to ensure confidentiality. Table 1 shows the average scores of each child in the exercise conducted 20 minutes after napping, and the one conducted 3 hours after the nap.

Table 1: TSCRS scores in the first and second stages

Children 20 mins 3 hrs
C1 38 46
C2 40 51
C3 29 26
C4 54 61
C5 31 48


The data presented above was subjected to analysis using the single-factor ANOVA to determine the correlation between the scores and the time of observation. The ANOVA results are as shown in table 2.

Table 2: ANOVA results

Anova: Single Factor
Groups Count Sum Average Variance
20 mins 5 192 38.4 97.3
3 hrs 5 232 46.4 163.3
Source of Variation SS df MS F P-value F crit
Between Groups 160 1 160 1.227936 0.300009 5.317655
Within Groups 1042.4 8 130.3
Total 1202.4 9



From the results, the variations in the children’s scores are observable. Various studies have shown that children aged 3-5 years old, such as those who were engaged in this study, have limited attention or self-control time spans. Particularly, Mulder et al. (2019) report that children in this age bracket can self-regulate for a span of approximately 3 minutes depending on age. For this reason, it was expected that there would be some indications of lack of self-control during an observation period of 20 minutes, whether conducted 20 minutes after the nap or 3 hours after the nap. The degree of variation was, however, unprecedented from the hypothesis.

Table 1 above shows that 60% of the participants scored less than 50% of the total score. This indicates that more than half of the participants had strong self-regulation capabilities when observed during the first round of observations. On the other hand, consideration of the observations made 3 hours after the nap shows that only one child scored less than 50% of the total, indicating a declined level of self-control among all the participants. For the child who scored less than 50%, the score obtained after 3 hours was lower than that gotten during the first stage of the observation. These findings augur well with the theory posited by Ampel et al. (2018), which indicates that the level of self-control declines depending on the level of self-control that has been previously exerted. For children who are just from taking a nap, the levels of already exerted self-control are minimal. However, the level of exertion increases with time, and by 3 hours after the nap, the residual levels of self-control are largely reduced.

As observed from the table, each of the participants indicated an increasing tendency to exhibit negative behavior, an outcome that can only be associated with frustration following prolonged self-control. Research by Kelley et al. (2019), showed that the level of self-control exerted results in aversive outcomes. It is thus deductible that the children are showing both the effects of self-control depletion with time and the aversive outcomes of self-control.

From the summary, it is also evident that the average scores were higher during the later session compared to the session conducted 20 minutes after the nap. The results confirm that the energy levels determine the levels of self-control. The children were generally calmer and took significantly longer durations before engaging in any of the listed behaviors during the session conducted 20 minutes after the nap than that conducted 3 hours after the nap. These outcomes are in tandem with various previous findings, which showed that high energy levels were positively correlated with the levels of self-control. The duration taken after the nap is considered a good indicator of the energy levels in that at 20 minutes after a nap, the children have not expended their energies on other activities such as play. On the other hand, the children undoubtedly engaged in other activities by the time of the second observation, which inevitably consumed their energy.

Differences in the levels of self-control among individuals were also reviewed to determine the countermanding effect of good self-control on energy levels. Participants such as C3, who showed consistently high performance in self-regulation, confirm that intrinsic self-control could also be present in individuals, and can help eliminate the effects of low energy in their participation in activities. These results, therefore, confirm the cause-effect relationship between self-control and energy levels. Thus, it is conclusive from these findings that while high energy levels result in high self-control, individuals with intrinsic self-control do not display the effects of differences in energy levels in their performance. However, with only participant C3 as an indicator of this cause-effect relationship, it may be difficult to generalize the finding.

The ANOVA-single factor results show an F value (1.228) smaller than the F critical (5.318), which is an indication that the means of the examined variables are almost equal; hence the null hypothesis is accepted. This finding also aligns with the previously discussed reports on the effects of energy levels on self-control among children. In this study, the null hypothesis indicated a positive correlation between energy levels and the level of self-control exhibited by the participants. The null hypothesis is thus accepted, while the alternative hypothesis is rejected.

The reliability and validity of the study instrument were confirmed based on the reports from the previous study by Kirshenbaum et al. (1978), who developed the original version of the TSCRS. To further confirm the reliability of the observational study was further confirmed by repeating the observations twice in the week following the first observation. The combination of the repeated results and alignment with previous studies was considered to be a confirmation of the validity of the study.

The results can thus be applied in self-control training activities both within the home setting and in classrooms. Teachers can use rest periods to promote self-control in pedagogical settings and understand differences in self-control among children. The only limitations of this study include the small sample size and the lack of a control group treatment. A control group without any fluctuations in energy levels could be used to determine the magnitude of the effect of the duration of rest on self-control.


The objective of this study was to explore the impacts of energy levels of children on their self-control capabilities. The null hypothesis indicated that high energy levels had a positive effect on self-control capability among children. Five participants were involved at the YMCA Child Care Center in an observational self-control activity, whereby they were rated using a TSCRS with a five-point scale based on frequency. The frequencies of involvement of the participants on various listed activities were monitored and recorded, and the frequencies were rated by teachers. The experiments were run in two sessions; one started 20 minutes after a nap while the other started 3 hours after the same nap to evaluate the effects of energy levels on the degree of self-control among the participants. The findings from the experimental process are aligned to those from literature, which indicate a positive relationship between the energy levels and self-control. Particularly, various studies propose the concept of self-control depletion, which is what is projected to happen with the participants. The concept of rest is also presumed to have contributed to high energy levels 20 minutes after the nap and lower energy levels 3 hours after the nap. Furthermore, the evidence is provided to show that in specific individuals with innate self-control, the effects of high or low energy levels are negligible. It is, however, debatable whether these findings can be generalized, given that this particular case was only exhibited by one child. These findings confirm the null hypothesis.



Ampel, B. C., Muraven, M., & McNay, E. W. (2018). Mental work requires physical energy: self-control is neither exception nor exceptional. Frontiers in Psychology.

Gailliot, M. T. (2013). Hunger and reduced self-control in the laboratory across the world: Reducing hunger as a self-control Panacea. Psychology, 4(1), 59-66.

Kelley, N. J., Finley, A. J., & Schmeichel, B. J. (2019). After-effects of self-control: The reward responsivity hypothesis. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 19, 600-618.

Miller, H., Pattison, K., DeWall, C., Rayburn-Reeves, R., & Zentall, T. (2010). Self-control without a “self? Psychological Science, 21(4), 534-538. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610364968

Mulder, H., van Ravenswaaij, H., Verhagen, J., Moerbeek, M., & Leseman, P. P. M. (2019). The process of early self-control: an observational study in two- and three-year-olds. Metacognition and Learning, 14, 239-264.

Puiu, T. (2018, August 8). People with self-control feel less hunger, fatigue, and stress: Having willpower makes you less susceptible to visceral states. ZME Science.

Tao, T., Wang, L., Fan, C., & Gao, W. (2014). Development of self-control in children aged 3 to 9 years: Perspective from a dual-systems model. Scientific Reports, 4, 7272.