At around age 2, children begin to inhibit their actions to meet social demands. Contrary to expectations, short, supervised inhibitory delays are more difficult for young children than long, unsupervised delays. This contradictory finding may have emerged because the dominant executive function tradition takes an outcome approach to inhibition, where only the success or failure of inhibition is monitored. In contrast, the minority delay of gratification tradition takes a process approach, examining the activities of children during the delay period. The present study adopts process methods to examine why young children are more successful on a long delay than a brief delay. Sixty-one 2-year-old children were presented with two tasks commonly used to measure inhibition. Their inhibitory activities were coded for externalisation and internalisation. Results showed that the strategies were differentially related to success on the two tasks. The implications for current approaches to social inhibition are discussed.
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