Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Amy Gentzler

Committee Member

Nicholas Turiano

Committee Member

Natalie Shook

Committee Member

Kristin Moilanen


This study explored how early adverse experiences (i.e., low socioeconomic status, household chaos, attachment insecurity) and implicit beliefs about self-control (i.e., whether self-control is a limited or nonlimited resource) were associated with trait and momentary self-control in a sample of college students. As the first study to explore these factors together, individuals’ implicit beliefs were tested as a moderator and meditator of the association between early risk and self-control. Participants (N = 214) first completed a baseline survey with the main predictors and trait self-control, followed by one week of experience sampling to assess momentary self-control, or success resisting desires. SPSS was used to conduct analyses with data collected at baseline, and HLM version 8 and Mplus version 8 were used for analyses with data collected via experience sampling. Higher levels of early risks predicted lower levels of trait self-control and less successful resistance against desires. Individuals who believed self-control was nonlimited reported higher trait self-control and marginally better success at resisting desires. Individuals’ beliefs did not moderate the association between early risks and trait or momentary self-control. There was an indirect effect of early risk on trait self-control through individuals’ implicit beliefs. However, this pattern was not found for momentary self-control. Together, these results indicated that implicit beliefs may partially explain the link between accumulated early risks and self-control, but that other contextual factors may play a large role for momentary self-control. This study offers a possible explanation for how early risk is associated with self-control, and a promising target for future interventions for individuals who have low self-control.