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children and self control



Childhood Self-Control Linked to Enhanced Job Prospects Throughout Life

April 14, 2015—Parents who work to instill self-control in their children will see them reap the benefits not only in the short-term but throughout their working life, according to new research in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The researchers who led the study found that children with high self-control—who are typically better able to pay attention, persist with difficult tasks, and suppress inappropriate or impulsive behaviors—are much more likely to find and retain employment as adults, spending 40% less time unemployed than those who had a lower capacity for self-control as children.

"The study highlights the importance of early life self-control as a powerful predictor of job prospects in adulthood," said lead researcher Michael Daly of the University of Stirling in Scotland.

While a link between adults' self-control and immediate job success might seem obvious, it wasn't clear whether measures of childhood self-control could forecast who successfully enters the workforce and avoids spells of unemployment across adult life.

The researchers used two studies of more than 15,000 British children to examine the link between self-control and adult unemployment. Self-control was measured at ages as young as 7 and the analyses adjusted for intelligence, social class, and family background and health factors. The results provided clear evidence linking self-control to unemployment rates across working life.

An examination of the 1980s recession also showed that those with low childhood self-control experienced a pronounced spike in joblessness during this difficult economic period. While this group was among the first to lose jobs during the recession, they also found it more difficult to regain employment.

This could be attributed to a range of factors including a heightened vulnerability to stress due to unemployment, the adverse effect of prolonged career interruptions on skill development and a greater likelihood of falling into habits which hinder their chances of regaining employment, such as poor time management and irregular sleep patterns.

"Less self-controlled children may be particularly vulnerable to unemployment during times of economic downturn in later life," said Daly. "Developing greater self-control in childhood, when the capacity for self-control is particularly malleable, could help buffer against unemployment during recessions and bring long-term benefits to society, through increased employment rates and productivity."

"Preschool interventions, school programmes, and activities such as yoga and martial arts, and walking meditation exercises have all been shown to help develop better self-control and related abilities," Daly noted.



Childhood Self-Control and Unemployment Throughout the Life Span: Evidence From Two British Cohort Studies,” Michael Daly, Liam Delaney, Mark Egan, and Roy F. Baumeister. Psychological Science, first published on April 13, 2015 as doi:10.1177/0956797615569001


Core Competencies for Kids: The Crucial Role of Self Control

Children who reach adolescence with deficits in self regulation are more likely to fail academically, exhibit aggressive behavior, abuse substances, engage in high-risk sexual behavior and—as a result of any or all of these—generally experience negative life events. Unfortunately, many parents who struggle in this area themselves are ill-equipped to pass these skills down. Yet some researchers will go so far as to suggest that most if not all major problems that plague individuals of all ages in our society, including a number of health problems and mental issues, can be traced in some way to an inability to appropriately control aspects of the self.




Press materials provided by the Association for Psychological Science.

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