Young children who share easily, resolve problems on their own, and cooperate with their peers are less likely to drop out of school, commit crimes, or need government assistance, sayspreviewed online in the American Journal of Public Health.
In some cases, researchers from Pennsylvania State University, University Park, and Duke University in Durham, N.C., found that these “social competence” measures were more meaningful than other evaluations that—on the surface—would seem to have a more obvious connection to life outcomes. For example, measures of childhood aggression did not significantly predict later criminal activity.
For every 1-point increase on a 5-point scale, children were twice as likely to earn a college degree; 54 percent more likely to earn a high school diploma, and 46 percent more likely to have a full-time job.
On the downside, for every 1-point decrease on the same 5-point scale, a child was 67 percent more likely to have been arrested by adulthood, and 82 percent more likely to be in or on a waiting list for public housing.
The study, which was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, tracked 750 youngsters from 1991, when they were in kindergarten, until they turned 25.
The children were from four communities—Durham, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; rural Pennsylvania; and Seattle.
Fifty-eight percent were boys, half were white, 46 percent were black, and 4 percent were from other ethnic backgrounds.
A version of this article appeared in the August 05, 2015 edition of Education Week