Researchers from a collaborative of German universities compared the self-regulation abilities of 4-year-olds from German middle class families to those from the Nso ethnic group of rural Cameroon. In a two-part study, they found that Cameroonian children were far more successful on the Marshmallow test, a classic test of delayed gratification developed by psychologist Walter Mischel in the 1960s at Stanford University. Nearly 70% of the Nso children were able to wait the full 10 minutes of the test; versus only 28% of the German children. The German children employed more distraction behaviors to help them cope and expressed more negative emotions than the rural Nso children; who were more likely to be emotionally neutral and less behaviorally active (10.5% even fell asleep).
The second part of the study compared parenting style at 9 months (measured by observation of parent-child play interactions and questionnaire regarding socialization priorities) to performance on the Marshmallow test at 4 years. Nso parents were more likely to display a parenting style that emphasized conforming to societal expectations (i.e., obedience, respect for elders, maintaining social harmony, and sharing). Whereas German parents were more likely to emphasize self-discovering and individualism (i.e., development of personal interests, expression of own preferences, assertiveness, being different from others). The research group found that the former parenting style was more predictive of success on the Marshmallow test, and likely explained the cultural differences in self-regulation abilities.
It remains to be understood what is the long-term impact of these different parenting cultures within various cultural contexts. Article