By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) –  If you think today’s kids are less patient than years past, you may be wrong. A study from the American Psychological Association finds that today’s preschoolers may have better impulse control than 50 years ago. Hard to believe, since we seem to live in an era of instant gratification.

Back in the 1960’s, researchers at Stanford conducted the first so-called “marshmallow test.” They took kids ages 3-to-5 and offered them one treat, like a marshmallow or cookie, but said they could get two if they simply waited, then left the room to see how long it took the kids to eat the treat.

Kids who did the same study in the early 2000’s waited on average two minutes longer than those from the 1960’s and one minute longer than those in the 1980’s, suggesting kids are getting more patient.


Some theories include: kids’ IQ scores have been rising; there is now more of a focus on early education which reinforces self-control; parenting strategies have changed; and modern screen technology may improve cognitive skills and contribute to delayed gratification.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

  1. Not surprising if you look at the steadily falling levels of lead in the environment. Lead toxicity interferes with impulse control. It’s the same reason the crime rate has fallen so dramatically. Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has presented the very strong case:

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