September 6


When Does Self-Control Kick In? Understanding Impulse Control Development

By Joshua Turner

September 6, 2023

Impulse control is an essential aspect of human behavior that helps us make rational decisions and avoid acting on our impulses. However, it is not uncommon for individuals to struggle with impulse control, especially during adolescence and early adulthood.

The development of impulse control is a complex process that involves various factors, including brain development, genetics, and environmental factors.

Research suggests that impulse control fully develops during early adulthood, around the age of 25. However, this does not mean that individuals cannot improve their impulse control skills through practice and training. Understanding the factors that contribute to impulse control can help individuals develop strategies to manage their impulses and make better decisions.

Key Takeaways

  • Impulse control fully develops during early adulthood, around the age of 25.
  • Genetics, brain development, and environmental factors all play a role in the development of impulse control.
  • Individuals can improve their impulse control skills through practice and training.

Understanding Impulse Control

Impulse control is a must-know knowledge for parents, teachers, and mental health professionals working with children and adolescents. By identifying and addressing impulse control issues early on, individuals can develop healthy habits and make better decisions in the long run.

Impulse Control in Childhood and Adolescence

Impulse control refers to the ability to resist immediate gratification and make decisions that are beneficial in the long run. Children and adolescents often struggle with impulse control due to their developing brains. They may act impulsively without considering the consequences, leading to risky behavior and poor decision-making.

Causes of Impulse Control Issues

There are various factors that can contribute to impulse control issues, including genetics, environmental factors, and brain development. Children who grow up in unstable environments or experience trauma may be more likely to struggle with impulse control. Additionally, certain mental health conditions, such as ADHD and bipolar disorder, can also impact impulse control.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of impulse control issues can include impulsive behavior, difficulty waiting for their turn, interrupting others, and acting without thinking. If these symptoms persist and interfere with daily life, it may be necessary to seek a diagnosis from a mental health professional. A diagnosis can help identify the underlying cause of impulse control issues and guide treatment options.

Impulse Control and Mental Health

Impulse control is an important aspect of mental health. Poor impulse control can lead to risky behaviors and negative consequences. By addressing underlying mental health issues like ADHD, anxiety, and depression, people can improve their impulse control and lead healthier, happier lives.

Impulse Control and ADHD

People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often have difficulty controlling their impulses. They may act impulsively without thinking, leading to poor decision-making and risky behaviors. Impulsivity is a core symptom of ADHD, and it can have a negative impact on mental health.

Impulse Control and Anxiety

Anxiety disorders can also affect impulse control. People with anxiety may feel overwhelmed by their emotions and act impulsively to try to relieve their anxiety. This can lead to impulsive behaviors like substance abuse or self-harm. Learning coping strategies for anxiety can help improve impulse control and overall mental health.


Impulse Control and Depression

Depression can also affect impulse control. People with depression may engage in impulsive behaviors as a way to cope with their negative emotions. This can include things like binge eating, overspending, or substance abuse. Treating depression can help improve impulse control and reduce the risk of these harmful behaviors.

Impacts of Impulse Control Disorder

Impulse control disorder can have a significant impact on various aspects of an individual’s life, including learning, behavior, relationships, and legal and safety concerns.

Effects on Learning and Behavior

Individuals with impulse control disorder may experience difficulties in learning and academic performance. They may struggle with maintaining focus and attention, leading to poor grades and academic achievement. In addition, their impulsive behaviors may result in disciplinary actions, including suspension or expulsion from school.

Effects on Relationships

Impulse control disorder can also have a significant impact on personal relationships. Individuals may struggle with maintaining healthy relationships due to impulsive behaviors that can be harmful or disruptive to others. These behaviors can include verbal or physical aggression, lying, manipulation, and infidelity.

Legal and Safety Concerns

Impulse control disorder can lead to legal and safety concerns. Individuals may engage in risky or illegal activities, such as substance abuse, theft, or violence, which can result in legal consequences and harm to themselves and others.

Additionally, impulsive behaviors can put individuals in dangerous situations, such as driving under the influence or engaging in unprotected sex.

Treatment and Management of Impulse Control

There are various treatment and management options available for individuals struggling with impulse control. Therapy, medication, self-control strategies, and activities are all effective ways to manage impulsivity. Seek help from a healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment.

Therapy Options

Therapy is an effective way to manage impulse control. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and talk therapy are two types of therapy that can help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. Family therapy can also be beneficial for those who struggle with impulse control, as it can help improve communication and relationships.

Medication and Drugs

Medication can be used to manage impulse control. Mood stabilizers, such as lithium and valproic acid, can help stabilize mood and reduce impulsive behavior. However, medication should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional and should be carefully monitored.

Self-Control Strategies

Self-control strategies can be used to manage impulse control. These strategies include mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, and meditation. Engaging in physical activity, such as yoga or running, can also help reduce impulsivity.


Engaging in activities can be a helpful way to manage impulse control. Activities such as art therapy, music therapy, and dance therapy can help individuals express themselves in a healthy way. Additionally, hobbies such as knitting or gardening can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.


In conclusion, impulse control is a complex process that continues to develop throughout childhood and adolescence. While there is no set age at which impulse control fully develops, research suggests that it is a gradual process that is influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment, and experience.

Guidance from parents and other caregivers can play a crucial role in helping children develop impulse control skills. By setting clear boundaries and providing consistent consequences for impulsive behavior, parents can help their children learn to manage their impulses and make better decisions.

Frustration can be a major obstacle to impulse control, as it can lead to impulsive behavior in response to difficult situations. However, with practice and support, children can learn to regulate their emotions and respond to frustration in a more thoughtful and constructive way.

Finally, relief can be a powerful motivator for impulse control. When children learn to delay gratification and resist impulsive urges, they may experience a sense of pride and accomplishment that can be highly rewarding.

With continued practice and reinforcement, children can develop the skills they need to make better decisions and manage their impulses effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about this topic.

At what age does self-control fully develop?

Self-control is a complex skill that develops gradually over time. While there is no exact age at which it fully develops, research suggests that most individuals reach a level of maturity in their mid-20s.

What is the typical timeline for impulse control development?

Impulse control begins to develop in early childhood and continues to mature through adolescence and into adulthood. During this time, children learn to regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in response to different situations.

How does impulse control develop in children?

Impulse control develops through a combination of genetic, environmental, and social factors. Children learn self-control by observing and imitating the behavior of adults and peers, practicing self-regulation in different situations, and receiving feedback and reinforcement from caregivers.

What are some factors that can affect the development of impulse control?

Factors that can affect the development of impulse control include genetics, temperament, parenting style, exposure to stress and trauma, and cultural and societal norms. Children who experience chronic stress or trauma, for example, may have difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviors.

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