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Children from rich families are more likely to pass this test

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THERE’S one deceptively simple test that claims to be able to determine whether a child will grow up to be successful in the future, but a new study has found that some kids have a significantly higher chance of passing than others.

The marshmallow test is a famous piece of social-science research developed by Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel in the 1960s.

It involves putting a marshmallow in front of a child and telling them that they can have a second one if they can wait 15 minutes before eating the first one.

If they are able to wait the allocated amount of time then it supposedly indicates that they will be successful at school and later on work.

Mr Mischel and a group of psychologists released the results of their 1990 study where they administered the test to 90 children and tracked their success rates later in life.

The research suggested that there were noticeable benefits for the children who understood delayed gratification, including higher scores on standardised tests.

However, a new study by New York University’s Tyler Watts, University of California, Irvine’s Greg Duncan and Hoanan Quan suggests that the results of the first study may have been skewed.

Apart from the original research only involving 90 children, those kids were all preschoolers on the prestigious Stanford’s campus.

The new team administered the test to more than 900 children who were more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, parents education and socio-economic status.

Having a larger and more diverse group involved in the study found that the children who were able to hold off on eating the marshmallow were not necessarily more successful than those that couldn’t.

It found that a child’s success was instead a result of their social and economic background and had little do with their direct ability to delay gratification.

There was little difference in long term success among children whose mothers did not have a university degree, with those who waited to eat and those who ate the marshmallow straight away.

Similar results were found for kids whose mothers did have a university degree, with the ones who dug in right away faring no worse than those who didn’t.

The findings suggested that the children from poorer families were more likely to eat the marshmallow straight away, possibly because they saw there may be a risk of getting nothing at all if they wait too long.

They could be from families that were only able to afford a certain amount of food and the likelihood of getting an extra treat was very slim.

In contrast, children from richer families may trust that there was always more than enough food to go around, so they had an easier time waiting the 15 minutes because they were not worried they wouldn’t get anything at all.

These children also knew that even if they ate the marshmallow straight away there would likely be more treats later anyway because that was what they were used to.

Socio-economic status played a major role in whether the child would eat the marshmallow straight away or wait the 15 minutes. From that it could be theorised that it wasn’t their ability to wait that determined whether they would pass the test and potentially be more successful, rather it was influenced by their upbringing.

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