Lead author Shannon Wanless, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in Education at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, said self-regulation is defined as children's ability to control their behavior and impulses, follow directions and persist in completing a task.
"These findings suggest that although we often expect girls to be more self-regulated than boys, this may not be the case for Asian children," Wanless said in a statement.
Wanless and Megan McClelland, an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, along with co-authors at U.S. and Asian universities, conducted assessments of 814 children in the United States, China, South Korea and Taiwan.
The study, published in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly, found U.S. girls had significantly higher self-regulation than boys, but there were no significant gender differences in any Asian societies.
"In our study, self-regulation was good for academic achievement for boys and girls," Wanless said. "That means this skill is important for both genders, and we should be supporting self-regulatory development for all children, especially boys. Low self-regulation in preschool has been linked to difficulties in adulthood, so increased focus on supporting young boys' development can have long-term positive benefits."