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Toddlers’ Self-Control Key to Their Future 2011-01-26

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Health, Humanities, Science, Statistics.
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It’s worrying news for any parent who’s struggled with a headstrong young child, but scientists claim that children who have low levels of self-control at age three are more likely to have health and money problems and a criminal record by the age of 32, regardless of background and IQ.

Researchers from Britain, the USA and New Zealand analysed data from two large studies in which children completed a range of physical tests and interviews to assess genetic and environmental factors that can shape their lives.

They found that children with low self-control were more likely to have health problems in later life including high blood pressure, being overweight, breathing problems and sexually transmitted infections. They were also more likely to be dependent on substances such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs, more likely to be single parents, have difficulty managing money and have criminal records.

[picture of Ms. Terrie E Moffitt PhD]
‘Mastering self-control and managing impulses are some of the earliest demands that society places on children,’ said lead researcher Ms Terrie Moffitt PhD, of King’s College London and Duke University in the USA.

‘Our study shows, for the first time, that willpower as a child really does influence your chances of a healthy and wealthy adulthood.’

The researchers firstly looked at data from around 1 000 children born in New Zealand between April 1972 and March 1973.

The participants’ self-control was assessed by teachers, parents, observers and the children themselves and included things like having low frustration tolerance, lacking persistence in reaching goals, being over-active and acting before thinking.

To corroborate the findings, the researchers ran the same analysis on data from 500 pairs of fraternal twins in Britain.

They found that the sibling with lower self-control scores at age five was more likely to start smoking, do badly at school and engage in anti-social behaviour at age 12.

Dr Avshalom Capsi, who is married to Ms. Moffitt, and who worked with her on the study, said:

‘This shows that self-control is important by itself, apart from all other factors that siblings share, such as their parents and home life.’

Contact: E-mail Prof. Moffitt


 

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