Social Skills at age 8 Predict Future Success

To: "Van Sloan"

Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2007 11:56:20 -0700 (PDT)

From: "Parhatsathid Napatalung"

Subject: How Well a Child Behaves Predict Future Success

Dear Van Sloan:

More information to say that you were right about social skills being a future predictor of success.


Behavior at age 8 may be enough to predict future career success

By Diane Swanbrow, News Service


New findings from long-term studies conducted in two nations over more than 30 years show that children's social behavior as early as age 8 is a powerful predictor of how well they will do in middle age.

The analysis, led by psychologist Eric Dubow of the Institute for Social Research (ISR) and Bowling Green State University, compares data on 856 U.S. children and 369 Finnish children who first were studied in the 1960s, and then followed for decades to learn how they were doing academically and in terms of midlife career success.

"Even when we controlled for the influence of their family's socioeconomic status and their own intelligence at the age of 8, we found that children's social behavior at age 8 and into adolescence, as rated by their schoolmates, was a strong predictor of their educational attainment in young adulthood, and then of their occupational attainment when they were in their 40s," Dubow says.

The analysis, published in the September/October 2006 issue of Developmental Psychology, is funded by the ISR Center for the Analysis of Pathways from Childhood to Adulthood, supported by the National Science Foundation.

In both studies, children's behavior was measured by asking peers how they behaved.

In the U.S. study, for example, children were asked to circle the names of classmates who pushed, shoved, said mean things and started fights about nothing. They also were asked to circle the names of those they would like to have as best friends and sit next to in class. The Finnish study used similar measures of negative and positive social behavior as identified by peers.

By comparing the results of long-term studies in different places, researchers affiliated with the center hope to increase their understanding of children's development and to build scientifically-based strategies to reduce problems and promote life success.

The current study is the first to be published in a peer-reviewed journal by center researchers, but already some of the implications are clear.

"These findings underscore the need for early intervention to help children who are behaving aggressively," Dubow says. "This kind of behavior early in life can set in motion a series of problems that lead to academic and then occupational failure many many years later."

Further research needs to focus on identifying protective factors that reduce the risks for children who behave aggressively at the age of 8.

"On average and in the aggregate, we now know that children who behave this way will not achieve as much as others in terms of education and occupation," Dubow says. "But that's not true for every child. We need to disentangle what other factors might help some kids to get back on the right track."

In the meantime, he concludes, parents might not want to adopt the attitude that children will just grow out of aggressive and unpopular behavior.

"In many cases, it's probably best to try to help children regulate their behavior," Dubow says.

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