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If you want ensure that your child has the best chances for being successful in life, you may want to pay extra attention to developing their social skills as they enter kindergarten, says a newly released study 20 years in the making.
The study, which began in 1991 and was conducted by researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Duke University, tracked over 750 U.S. children from kindergarten to age 25. Their findings point to a strong link between kindergarten prosocial skills (voluntary behavior intended to benefit others) and their success as adults.
In 1991, kindergarten teachers assessed the range of the children’s social skills by documenting whether they cooperated with each other without being asked, if they were helpful to others, how well they understood other’s emotions and their individual problem-solving skills.
Researchers then tracked the children through high school and college and observed how well they performed, whether they graduated on time and earned a degree and if they established a full-time career by age 25. Other variables like involvement in crime, drug abuse, mental health and public assistance were also taken into account.
The results of the study show that the kindergartners with better social skills were twice as likely to earn a college degree and 46% more likely to have a full-time job by the age of 25. The children who had limited social skills faced significantly higher risk of committing crimes, suffering from alcohol and drug abuse behavior and applying for public housing.
That socially stronger children were more likely to become successful isn’t quite surprising, but the fact that much of their life consequences could be traced to how they were in kindergarten highlights the importance of developing a child’s social skills early on.
Kristen Schubert, a program director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the study, explained in a press release:
“This study shows that helping children develop social and emotional skills is one of the most important things we can do to prepare them for a healthy future. From an early age, these skills can determine whether a child goes to college or prison, and whether they end up employed or addicted.”
It may sound almost too obvious, but the earlier you intervene to teach your children to be socially aware, kind and helpful, the more likely it will have a positive lasting effect on their lives.