Self-control

Scale: Social-Emotional and Character Development Scale (SECDS) – Self-control subscale

What it measures:

  • A youth’s ability to control and regulate his or her behavior and emotions in positive ways.

Intended age range: 8- to 13-year-olds.

Brief description: This measure consists of 4 items. Sample items include: “I wait my turn in line patiently,” “I keep my temper when I have an argument with other kids,” and “I follow the rules even when nobody is watching”. Each item is rated on a 4 point scale: NO!, no, yes, and YES!

Rationale: This scale, which is one of several in the SECDS (a comprehensive measure of social-emotional and character development), was selected based on its brevity as well as its evidence of both reliability and validity and sensitivity to effects of interventions.

Cautions: This measure was developed for use with elementary-school-age children; please consider in particular that the content of the items that comprise the scale may not be appropriate for older youth. For example, with older youth, waiting one’s turn in line may not be a salient situation for exercising self-control.

Special administration information: None.

How to score: Each item is scored from 1 (NO!) to 4 (YES!). The total score is computed by averaging across all items.

How to interpret findings: Higher scores on this measure reflect greater self-reported ability to control one’s behaviors and emotions.

Access and permissions: The measure is available for non-commercial use with no charge and is made available here.

Alternatives: Information about several more in-depth measures of self-control as well as scales that may be more appropriate for older youth can be found here.


Citation: Ji, P., DuBois, D. L., & Flay, B. R. (2013). Social-Emotional and Character Development Scale: Development and initial validation with urban elementary school students. Journal of Research in Character Education, 9, 121–147. (Available here.)

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