•The present meta-analysis synthesized 31 twin studies.
•Genes significantly contribute to differences in self-control: the overall heritability is 60%.
•The heritability is the same for boys and girls, and across age.
•The heritability is different across informants.
•Considering genetic influences is key when investigating self-control.


Self-control is the ability to control one’s impulses when faced with challenges or temptations, and is robustly associated with physiological and psychological well-being. Twin studies show that self-control is heritable, but estimates range between 0% and 90%, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions. The aim of this study was to perform a meta-analysis to provide a quantitative overview of the heritability of self-control. A systematic search resulted in 31 included studies, 17 reporting on individual samples, based on a sample size of >30,000 twins, published between 1997 and 2018. Our results revealed an overall monozygotic twin correlation of .58, and an overall dizygotic twin correlation of .28, resulting in a heritability estimate of 60%. The heritability of self-control did not vary across gender or age. The heritability did differ across informants, with stronger heritability estimates based on parent report versus self-report or observations. This finding provides evidence that when aiming to understand individual differences in self-control, one should take genetic factors into account. Recommendations for future research are discussed."

The more and more that is coming out about how much of our personality is heritable, the more slack we should give other people for their peccadillos. "Have a little self-control may be easier for some than for others."