This research used nationally representative data to investigate (i) the determinants of adult self-control; (ii) the role of self-control in predicting key life outcomes in multiple domains and (iii) the intergenerational implications of parental self-control for child development. People’s age as well as the political and economic institutions they are exposed to have an economically meaningful impact on their level of self-control. A higher degree of self-control is, in turn, associated with better health, educational and labour market outcomes as well as greater financial and overall well-being. Parents’ self-control is linked to reduced behavioural problems among their children. Overall, higher levels of self-control have broad benefits for individuals, their offspring, and societies, therefore self-control emerges is an important target for intervention.