A recent meta-analysis by Li and colleagues analyzed results from 68 studies to explore the relationship between school discipline and self-control in students ranging in age from preschool through high school. The researchers broke the topic of school discipline into three subcategories to better understand the association of each aspect with student self-control. The first of these components was structure, which emphasizes the clear and fair enforcement of school rules to manage student behavior. The second component was support, which emphasizes the creation of a nurturing environment that is responsive to student needs and is designed to help students develop good behavior. The third component was the teacher-student relationship, which emphasizes quality interactions between students and staff as a means of managing student behavior. The meta-analysis found that:
There is evidence of a significant, positive association between school discipline and student self-control (r = 0.190, p < 0.001).
When comparing the different components of school discipline, both support (ES = +0.02) and teacher-student relationship (ES = + 0.08) had positive effect sizes when compared with structure, but neither of the effect sizes was statistically significant.
Despite having the strongest association with self-control, teacher-student relationships also demonstrated the highest variability of any of the predictors (SE = 0.054).
In addition to the analysis of these three components, student age demonstrated evidence of being a significant moderating variable (ES = +0.01, p = 0.002), indicating the association between school discipline and student self-control is stronger for older students.
The researchers concluded their article with a discussion of the implications of these findings. Despite some caveats in the analysis, such as the inability to control for family socioeconomic status, this study demonstrated a positive association between school discipline and student self-control, which may help to inform to future school policy and practice.