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Self-Control In Kids Predicts Future Success 245

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-figiting dept.
SpuriousLogic writes "A new study suggests that a child's future success depends on the amount of self-control they exhibit. From the article: 'The international team of researchers looked at 1,037 children in New Zealand born in the early 1970s, observing their levels of self-control at ages 3 and 5. At ages 5, 7, 9 and 11, the team used parent, teacher and the children's own feedback to measure such factors as impulsive aggression, hyperactivity, lack of persistence and inattention. At age 32, they used physical exams, blood tests, records searches and personal interviews of 96% of the original participants to determine how healthy, wealthy and law-abiding the subjects had turned out to be. The results were startling. In the fifth of children with the least self-control, 27% had multiple health problems. Compare that with the fifth of kids with the most self-control — at just 11%. Among the bottom fifth, 32% had an annual income below approximately $15,000, while only 10% of the top fifth fell into that low-income bracket. Just 26% of the top-fifth's offspring were raised in single-parent homes, compared with 58% of those in the bottom fifth. And 43% of the bottom fifth had been convicted of a crime, far outstripping the top fifth's 13% rate.'"
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Self-Control In Kids Predicts Future Success

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  • First post! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:08PM (#35015142)

    Self control? What's that?

  • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:10PM (#35015162) Homepage Journal

    "Among the bottom fifth, 32% had an annual income below approximately $15,000, while only 10% of the top fifth fell into that low-income bracket. Just 26% of the top-fifth's offspring were raised in single-parent homes, compared with 58% of those in the bottom fifth."

    Well, that may very well be the problem right there. Ditto for the fact that kids with low self control probably came from low-income families, too.

    That said, doing martial arts as a kid is a wonderful way to learn self-control, among many other benefits. I'm half convinced it cures ADHD, too, from my personal experience.

    • Shocking (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 2.7182 (819680)
      And you know what? That kid in elementary school that was the first to try smoking? He works in a Walmart now.
    • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:17PM (#35015250)
      That's what I was thinking. Kids with self control problems in school often come from backgrounds where sitting still and having self control isn't valued. But beyond that, of course if they're still having trouble with self control as adults their income is going to suffer, people who can't or won't fit the business world are going to be making less money whether or not it's warranted. Businesses just aren't in the practice of hiring people they don't think fit their business.
      • by arivanov (12034) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @03:33AM (#35017368) Homepage

        The data is right, the conclusion is wrong.

        The data clearly shows that US and UK schools fail miserably in educating the potential top 5% percentile of students (ditto for bottom 5%). The best students (especially male ones) are guaranteed to be in that "lack of self control" bucket. They are bored. Anyone who had a smart boy will tell you that based on experience (girls are slightly better at faking interest).

        I have seen it first hand with my 8 year old. He was assigned exactly in that bucket and had an "impossible to educate, needs psychiatric assessment" label in 2 schools. The lot - refuse to sit, lashing out, etc. Guess what, his granny taught him to read in another language with a different alphabet in 3 weeks at the age of 6. He has now managed to compensate for the 2 years when the teachers had him labelled as "impossible" and get back to his class level in English (4 years in 2) and to a level which is at least a year ahead of where he should be in math.

        I really hate to think where he could have been if his teachers did not assign him to the "non-compliant, belongs to the never succeed bucket" in his last year at the nursery.

        • by gtall (79522)

          Just for the record, you do realize your argument is full of holes. You have a statistical study of...err...one. And they did a statistical study, they never said "if you have no self-control as a kneebiter, then you will become a wanker".

          It is precisely because these are statistical studies that they may not apply in your particular case. It doesn't apply in any other particular case either even if the tyke had no self-control and became a wanker. However, if smoking causes cancer in X % of the cases, you

        • by Kashgarinn (1036758) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:30AM (#35018960)

          You're reading too much into this from your own perspective.

          Your perspective is that you have an intelligent, but out of control individual, you're assuming all individuals who lack self-control are the same as the individual you know, and that if only the needs of these individuals are met, everyone would be better.

          The thing is.. and this is the big thing.. individuals who are just as intelligent, but do not lack self-control have more control over their lives in the future.

          It's the difference between being intelligent, finding school boring and lashing out at the environment because you're bored, or being intelligent, finding school boring, but enduring that anyway and taking what you can from it.

          In your case, I'd try and develop the kids self-control. Intelligence is a fine tool to cut through obstacles, but self-control is the tool to cleave mountains.

          • by Quirkz (1206400)
            I think you're right. The GP assuming that acting impulsively is a sign of intelligence. It's only one counter-example, but my own story opposes his. I was a bright kid. I was bored constantly in school. I didn't disrupt things, I just sat there being bored. Sometimes teachers would let me read a book in class, and I wasn't so bored. Others didn't like me reading, so I had to pretend to pay attention and do slightly less fun things like doodle or whatever. It's definitely not necessary to be disruptive jus
      • by Aceticon (140883)

        It has more or less been known for quite a while that things like self-control are correlated with success. More specifically we're talking about things like the ability to delay self-gratification (i.e. "you can have a cookie now before dinner or a big slice of cake as desert, which do you prefer?").

        [I think almost all of us know somebody that never seems to be able to save enough to go on those dream vacations he/she always wanted and yet throws away money in thrifles and things that he/she only uses for

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:19PM (#35015266)

      What are you talking about? I think it's very clear from the research: kids with little self control clearly caused themselves to grow up in a single-parent home. I mean, how else could you possibly interpret that data?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aliquis (678370)

      I haven't RTFA or RTFFP.

      Anyway, what I wonder in this case is how much is genetics and how much is environment. Though they don't say anything about anything of it, just how they act as kids.

      But for instance genetics may not decide whatever your parents separate or not (or maybe it does if they are more "explosive" characters themselves .. And you get that), but eventually that may affect how you interact with other persons.

      Personally I feel pretty fucked up now at the age of 31. I've had a somewhat weird l

      • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:57PM (#35015526)
        I know exactly how you feel. You grow up a product of your environment and you don't really look back until you're 30 and realise what could have been, if things had been different. I certainly grew up in the shadow of potential I was supposed to be meeting, even when I wasn't encouraged at home and being bullied mercilessly. I think it's insane how we expect children to learn and study at school and then send them home to parents who tell them that hard work is dumb. Even with the best genetics in the world, those kids are going to have it tough later in life.
        • At 30 things CAN be different.

          Unless of course you've got a mortgage... which maybe the point of mortgages.

      • by Joe Tie. (567096)

        I think the most annoying part is having to then watch other people deal with the same stuff that messed you up. I mean, I have sympathy. But watching people struggle with far less severe deaths when they're in their late 20s as I did when I was five? It's hard to not wonder if these faces are the same as the kids on the playground who wound up shunning me because they felt like death was contagious.

    • by h00manist (800926) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:29PM (#35015338) Journal
      The same is true for adults, or, if you may, human beings. Big surprise, I don't know why people insist on treating children as retards or something.
    • by agm (467017) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:35PM (#35015374)

      "Among the bottom fifth, 32% had an annual income below approximately $15,000, while only 10% of the top fifth fell into that low-income bracket. Just 26% of the top-fifth's offspring were raised in single-parent homes, compared with 58% of those in the bottom fifth."

      Well, that may very well be the problem right there.

      It says the study subjects offspring were raised in single parent homes, not that the study subjects themselves were raised in a single parent home.

      It also says an annual income of below $15000. Given this was in New Zealand, I doubt very much this is true. $15,000 NZD is not much at all. Perhaps they converted it to some other currency?

      • by dogmatixpsych (786818) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @10:37PM (#35016214) Homepage Journal
        If you read the research article (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/01/20/1010076108) - [note: open access, so you can download the pdf or read the full text online] - the researchers state the annual income was 20,000 NZD, which is roughly 15,000 USD ("For example, by adulthood, the highest and lowest fifths of the population on measured childhood self- control had respective rates of multiple health problems of 11% vs. 27%, rates of polysubstance dependence of 3% vs. 10%, rates of annual income under NZ $20,000 of 10% vs. 32%, rates of offspring reared in single-parent households of 26% vs. 58%, and crime conviction rates of 13% vs. 43%.") So yes, it was converted for an American audience.
        • Average income is a poor measure (brought down by non-working youth, elderly and unemployed). Median income is better, and is around $NZ 38 k IIRC (disclaimer: I'm from New Zealand). If we get selective and choose "median income of the working population" I think it goes up to around $NZ 45 k. So the figure you get depends on whether you take median or mean, and which population you use for your sample (make sure when doing comparisons with other countries that you are using the same 'statistics', or the c
    • by b4upoo (166390)

      I suppose that the very moment a punch is about to strike would be a lousy time to suffer loss of concentration.
      I suspect that not only do the low testing subjects suffer from social and psychological problems but many probably carry very hard to diagnose medical problems as well. And being that they may reflect their parents status it is likely that the money needed for good medical care was never available to them from birth

      • socialized medicine is not optional

        It's New Zealand. They already have that. Try again. Here's a better answer for you:

        Some people are just bad protoplasm. Ask a doctor or nurse (or anyone else who sees everyone in society, from top to bottom - but I can't think of another field that does) about it. If your genes are bad, nothing about you will work right: you'll be dumb, you'll be ugly, you'll be unhealthy. By contrast, good looks, good health, and good intelligence tend to go together, because people who have good genetics will express al

        • If your genes are bad, nothing about you will work right: you'll be dumb, you'll be ugly, you'll be unhealthy. By contrast, good looks, good health, and good intelligence tend to go together, because people who have good genetics will express all the right genes at the right time during development and end up symmetrical and well-wired (barring some freak accident).

          Back to Biology 101 for you. Not even close. Health and intelligence are not genetically linked (Stephen Hawkings, anyone?). Attractiveness and intelligence are not genetically linked (Paris Hilton for the win).

          Yes, there are unfortunate people with 'piss poor protoplasm' (the technical term). These people have a much harder time being 'successful' because they're often sick or disabled. However, I can think of a number of individuals with chronically poor health who have managed to make enormous c

    • Never mind that, the things they call success are those things that self-control plays a central role in: following the law, and being financially and healthfully well-off. Up next, they found that kids who breathed oxygen had a much higher survival rate into adulthood than kids who breathed argon.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:51PM (#35015482)

      That said, doing martial arts as a kid is a wonderful way to learn self-control, among many other benefits.

      So does "doing" musical instruments.

      Any sport, for that matter.

      And any activity that requires concentration and diligence.

      I've studied martial arts for quite a few years and taught a little too. The benefits are no better than the above and actually playing sports that use a ball will give a kid "ball sense" - the ability to predict where it's going from looking at it.

      Studying music will also give the kid the same mental preperation and more dextarity than martial arts. Martial arts will not make one better at other sports than if one didn't do them.

      As far as combat skills: I worked with "jocks" who came off the street with no previous martial arts experience and beat black-belts.

      The skills from martial arts are overrated and there's nothing like after several years of practice to walk into your orthopedist and finding him shopping for an airplane while you're hobbling over to his desk. And then there's the dentist for your TMJ.

      I don't care how good you become (I was .very good, others will land hits on you.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        So does "doing" musical instruments.

        Any sport, for that matter.

        I've done sports, played instruments (the violin, which isn't especially easy), and done martial arts. While you might incidentally learn concentration and discipline from sports and music, in martial arts it is taught explicitly.

        Well, your mileage will vary, of course, but my instructor in TKD would spend a significant amount of time with students cultivating their character and self-control.

        >>I don't care how good you become (I was .very

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Part of the confusion may be that you're discussing martial arts like there's no difference between the different disciplines, let alone different instructors and facilities.

          Things like Kung-Fu and Tai Chi will involve much more focus and concentration than most other martial arts.

          Similarly, Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Muy Thai and Wrestling (and, to a lesser degree, Judo, Aikido and Krav Maga) have shown themselves to be very effective in actual hand-to-hand combat whereas most others haven't shown themselves to be w

      • by tragedy (27079)

        Well duh. People who expect otherwise are getting their ideas about martial arts from movies and TV. Might as well believe in detectives who solve a new murder every week and that you can have realistic immersive VR, but you'll die in real life if you die in the VR etc. I can pretty much guarantee that anyone who takes martial arts classes will be a better fighter than they would be without them (barring debilitating injuries). That's pretty much going to be true even if only for the daily exercise. It does

      • by russ1337 (938915)

        That said, doing martial arts as a kid is a wonderful way to learn self-control, among many other benefits.

        So does "doing" musical instruments.

        Any sport, for that matter.

        And any activity that requires concentration and diligence.

        I born in New Zealand in the 70's, played saxophone (badly) age 10-12, then delivered newspapers to people at 5:30am age 14-17.. does that count?

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:59PM (#35015540)

      The "causation is not correlation" refrain doesn't really apply here. The article claims that self-control predicts success, not that it causes it. The study seems pretty solid, and it's conclusion is believable. Unfortunately, it would be very difficult to determine whether self-control leads to success versus "unknown factor X" leading to both self-control and success. To do that would require you to take a large sample of children, and teach self-control to some who don't have it, while also breaking the self-control of some of those who do. Not the sort of study a parent will sign their kid up for.

      The point is that self-control is good, and trying to instill it in a child is likely (but not guaranteed) to help them in life.

      Also, I think you're misunderstanding the summary. It's not saying that the kids with poor self-control had low income or single-parent homes growing up, it's saying that kids with poor self-control are likely to grow into adults with low income and broken homes. The fact that lack of self-control can lead to divorce should surprise no one.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>It's not saying that the kids with poor self-control had low income or single-parent homes growing up, it's saying that kids with poor self-control are likely to grow into adults with low income and broken homes

        Given that these sorts of issues are often hereditary (nature or nurture), I wouldn't be surprised if they came more often from single households or low income families as well.

        >>The article claims that self-control predicts success, not that it causes it.

        Sure, but self-control could be

      • by Zalbik (308903) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @11:42PM (#35016506)

        The article claims that self-control predicts success, not that it causes it.

        The point is that self-control is good, and trying to instill it in a child is likely (though not guaranteed) to help them in life.

        I think your second paragraph needs to have a little discussion with your first paragraph...

      • by jhol13 (1087781)

        There is no need to have a group where self-control is broken. A study where some "wild" children are taught self control compared to some who are not would be sufficient. Hard to do, though.

        Oh, btw, there are no guarantees in life. The life is a gamble no matter what you do.

      • by Eivind (15695)

        You contradict yourself. First, you say that the article does NOT claim that self-control causes success (but merely that it predicts it) - then you go on to say that instilling self-control will likely help them in life (i.e. that self-control likely causes success.)

        The theory is plausible, but uncertain. It's entirely possible that self-control is merely a proxy for some underlying mechanism that is the real cause of success, and that increased self-control-training as such has no effect.

        Could be tested o

      • There is more to the research than this, as well.

        Executive function ("self control") is associated with imaginative play: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=76838288 [npr.org] for the pop summary. Imaginative play, in which kids grab relative raw "things" and make things out of them and make stories with those things (i.e., more like turning a stone into a building and a twig into a person than Legos or Playmobil toys) and unsupervised play are deeply on the decline.

        The chilling fact: they recently

    • by dogmatixpsych (786818) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @10:47PM (#35016258) Homepage Journal
      The researchers controlled for childhood income (socioeconomic status {SES}) and IQ. The low self control kids were more likely than high self control kids to become single parents (58% versus 26%) and have very low income (32% versus 10%). Yes, the low self control kids were more likely to be brought up in low SES homes and were more likely to have lower IQs but the researchers controlled for that in all analyses: "Dunedin study children with greater self-control were more likely to have been brought up in socioeconomically advantaged families (r = 0.25, P
      Anyway, the regression coefficients for the study are generally quite modest, but it's an interesting finding (one that's been replicated many times, actually). I would like to have seen better statistical analyses though (some multi-level modeling would have been more elegant).
    • I don't know what Sibelius [google.com] has to do with it.

      But I'd have thought that if there is causation, a correlation is quite likely to follow. Or is Ohm's law just a coincidence?

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      Doing martial arts as a kid is a wonderful way to learn self-control, among many other benefits. I'm half convinced it cures ADHD, too, from my personal experience.

      Karate means never having to say you are sorry.

  • Self control in kids will eventually lead to self control as adults? This can predict future success ... as in success in staying out of prison.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:15PM (#35015228)

    http://www.ted.com/talks/joachim_de_posada_says_don_t_eat_the_marshmallow_yet.html

    • by Qzukk (229616)

      What is interesting to me is the contortions the kids go through while they resist. I wonder if it's possible to try that with kids strapped into an fMRI and see what exactly is going on in there that makes "wait 15 minutes" require so much physical activity.

  • by eepok (545733) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:24PM (#35015306) Homepage
    http://www.ted.com/talks/joachim_de_posada_says_don_t_eat_the_marshmallow_yet.html/ [ted.com]

    In this short talk from TED U, Joachim de Posada shares a landmark experiment on delayed gratification -- and how it can predict future success. With priceless video of kids trying their hardest not to eat the marshmallow.
  • Character (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fwarren (579763) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:25PM (#35015310) Homepage

    Or maybe character matters?

  • by turing_m (1030530) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:28PM (#35015334)
    I take it that a "good" metabolism is a fast metabolism, according to this study? A fast metabolism is not good to have in a famine. It's only "good" to have in our current environment of plentiful food. It would make sense that if you don't have enough self control to stockpile some food reserves (or something that can be traded for food) in preparation for such a time, your body had better do it for you by making you a lazy fatass.
    • by corbettw (214229)

      I call bullshit. Someone with a fast metabolism is going to have a lot easier time chasing down prey (and running from predators) than someone who takes two days to digest a single Twinkie.

      • by orphiuchus (1146483) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @10:06PM (#35016056)

        I call bullshit. Someone with a fast metabolism is going to have a lot easier time chasing down prey (and running from predators) than someone who takes two days to digest a single Twinkie.

        Then why are there so many of us with famine-ready metabolisms walking around?

        By the way, I just love eating 1700 calories a day and doing an hour of p90x just to keep from gaining 5 pounds a week. Thanks famine-survival-specialist ancestors!

      • You don't need a fast metabolism to tend sheep or raise crops. You want to burn as little energy as possible while waiting for them to be ready to eat.

    • by epine (68316)

      In an expanding population, low birth age is an advantage. More generations: more tau growth multiples. In a declining population, delayed birth age is an advantage: fewer tau shrinkage multiples. Not for a long time has the western world experienced a consistently declining population due to high mortality (rather than family planning). We forget the other sweep of the pendulum.

      A sunny day metabolism is not necessarily optimal for a rainy day. Clearly starvation has been a problem in the history of the

  • by Coppit (2441) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:40PM (#35015402) Homepage

    The international team of researchers looked at 1,037 children in New Zealand born in the early 1970s, observing their levels of self-control at ages 3 and 5.

    The researchers had a very strong temptation to find another 300 children to study, but being successful scientists were able to exhibit self-control.

  • Could someone take a sec and explain to me how this system works? I submitted this earlier today:

    http://slashdot.org/submission/1455260/EPA-Broken-CFL-Bulb-Better-read-this#comments [slashdot.org]

    Now it's nowhere to be seen on the "recent" page. It just seems to have evaporated.

    To make matters worse, I can't see anywhere in the FAQ where this is explained.

    - aj

    • There's recently been an upgrade of the site. Well, the direction is still open for debate, but in an attempt to make it look more i lots of things have suddenly stopped working and/or looking weird.

      Seems like taco and his gang didn't have the self control needed to actually test stuff before releasing it.

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:49PM (#35015460) Homepage Journal

    I can't comment on the study because I couldn't find a link to it in the linked article (wtf?).

    One of the definitions of intelligence is the ability to put off an immediate reward for a long term benefit. Children are presented with a jelly bean and told "if you can wait until [the researcher] get back, you'll get 3 jelly beans", and then the researcher leaves.

    Kids who can put off temptation the longest tend to score highest in IQ tests.

    For example, smokers could give up smoking for 3 months and use the money to pay for a high-def TV. This never happens in practice, because of their inability to put off the immediate pleasure in order to get the long-term reward.

    BTW, the links on Slashdot have no underlines? With no decoration, you have to mouse around the text in order to see if a link was included in the article.

    • by orphiuchus (1146483) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @09:04PM (#35015584)

      Self control is only part of intelligence if you expand the definition to include it. In my opinion we use the word "intelligence" as too much of a blanket term encompassing all the elements of success.

      The truth of the matter is that someone who processes and retains information with the bottom 20% of the population but has the self control to do the extra work required for them to get the grades and/or do good work at, whatever their profession is, is very likely to be more successful than their peers.

      Most of the 4.0 students(with engineering or noble science majors) I knew in college never left their rooms on weeknights. I realized a few years ago that they weren't necessarily smarter, some of them quite frankly seemed kind of dim, what they had was work ethic and a realistic assessment of how much time they had to put in to make the grades. And that is far more important than an IQ test.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        It should be very obvious that if you make the 2x2 matrix of (Lazy, Hard-working) and (Stupid, Smart) then (Lazy, Stupid) comes out on the bottom and (Hard-working, Smart) comes out on top. But does (Hard-working, Stupid) beat (Lazy, Smart)? It would be nice to answer yes, it's obviously the PC answer that you can be whatever you want to be and so on. Answering no is more of a surrender that you're only this smart, so you'll never get further than this in life.

        But the hard fact is that I think the answer is

      • by gtall (79522)

        Yep, in grad school we could always tell the ones we'd be graduating with. Those that had grit made it, those that didn't...no matter how they flashed their intelligence...did not.

    • I can't read *any* of the responses to my post for some reason, but I can see the 1st line and so can get a feel for what's being said.

      Intelligence is not well defined, both in common usage and in the fields of psychology and (my field) AI. I agree that there are more aspects which contribute to an overall sense of intelligence.

      One of the failings of AI in my mind is the lack of a good definition of intelligence.

      As a mathematician, I know what a manifold is, can tell whether something is one, and can constr

  • Am I the only one thinking that all they are saying is that the animal Homo Sapien Sapien is easier to domesticarte if you do it early? Surely this is the case with most species?
  • Parents! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @09:03PM (#35015572)

    Please beat your children.

  • Link to the Paper (Score:5, Informative)

    by BlackSupra (742450) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @09:30PM (#35015802)

    Link to the paper "A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety" by Terrie E. Moffitt, Et Al.

    The Abstract : http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/01/20/1010076108 [pnas.org]

    The PDF Paper: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/01/20/1010076108.full.pdf+html [pnas.org]

    The Journal Snippit: http://www.pnas.org/site/misc/highlights.shtml#control [pnas.org]

    Though policy-makers have considered programs to enhance the nation’s health, wealth, and safety through interventions to improve children’s self-control skills, researchers had not previously shown that childhood self-control actually influences adult outcomes in large populations. Terrie Moffitt et al. analyzed assessments of more than 1,000 participants in the Dunedin, New Zealand Longitudinal Study who were followed from birth to age 32. Even after accounting for differences in social status and IQ, the researchers found that children as young as 3 who scored highly on measures of self-control were less likely than lower-scoring children to develop common physical health problems, abuse drugs, experience financial difficulties, raise a child in a single-parent household, or be convicted of a crime as adults. In a second sample of 500 nonidentical British twins, the sibling who scored lowest in measures of self-control at age 5 was more likely than the other twin to begin smoking, perform poorly in school, and engage in antisocial behaviors at age 12, the authors report. Children whose self-control improved during the study fared better as adults in measures of health, wealth, and criminal history than was otherwise predicted by their initial childhood scores. The results suggest that even small improvements in individuals’ self-control could improve the health, wealth, and safety of large populations, according to the authors. — J.M.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Note: I Am A Criminologist.

      The Dunedin study has been the source of a lot of research on the development of delinquency throughout the life-course (specifically by Terrie Moffitt). One of the arguments which has evolved from the study is that of a developmental taxonomy of delinquents, including the existence of what were termed "Life-Course-Persistent" offenders who are bound, due to a variety of deficiencies (familial, environmental, biological, social) to engage in a nigh unescapable life of delinquency

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      An interesting point that I don't believe has been called out in comments yet: note that they tested some kids as young as THREE.

      Not to say that there aren't some things that parents could do to help with self-control, but testing at that early age would lead me to believe that many of the elements of self-control are innate and not learned.

      I know a family of four kids, and two of them are meticulous, careful, self-controlled individuals. Two are impulsive, whimsical, and NOT self-controlled at all. Same

  • The results were startling.

    Unless you have even the most basic knowledge of the subject. In which case it's additional verification of previous studies. What's next slashdot, amazed gasps about this new thing called fire. And how it's apparently baffling scientists?

  • by QuestionsNotAnswers (723120) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @09:46PM (#35015912)

    Here is an interview about this in particular (not sure if available outside NZ!): http://www.radiolive.co.nz/Children-with-more-self-control-turn-into-healthier-and-wealthier-adults/tabid/506/articleID/18253/Default.aspx [radiolive.co.nz] or google http://www.google.com/search?q=Dunedin+Longitudinal+Study [google.com] for background information.

    It is a very rigourous study that has been going for nearly 40 years (now on phase 38), producing 900 papers, and a superb data set because they still have an amazing 96% of the original sample set (now aged about 40) getting regularly tested. They go to extreme lengths to continue keeping the original people coming back - e.g. organising flights for all the people that have elsewhere including a large number that are spread around the world.

  • Lack of self control certainly does not prevent success:

    • Bill Clinton
    • Richard Nixon
    • John F Kennedy
    • Robert Downey Jr
    • Charlie Sheen

    List could continue for a very long time.

    • by am 2k (217885)

      You, sir, fail at statistics:

      You hand-picked a few people out of the whole of the US population, and try to deduct some statistically relevant conclusions based on this. Unless you have some millions more people to add to this list, this proves exactly nothing.

      Note that even the highest likelyhood in the summary was below 50%.

    • by nomadic (141991)
      Nixon, Clinton, and Kennedy definitely had tremendous self control; if you look over their lives they were each working on a long-term plan to obtain the presidency. The fact that once they reached the goal they let themselves do what they want doesn't mean they lack self control, but rather once they had achieved their goal, why not enjoy the power it brought.
  • A professor at Stanford did a less rigorous version of this study using marshmallows and bells in the 1960s: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer [newyorker.com]
  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @10:27PM (#35016160)
    If you believe "The Bell Curve", which I do, IQ selects for all of the positive attributes listed in the article. What's the correlation between IQ and self-control? And why is it ignored?
  • Well I'm fucked then.

    How strong an explanatory variable is "self control"?

    How is "self control" measured?

  • I've seen something along these lines at least a year and a half ago. http://www.ted.com/talks/joachim_de_posada_says_don_t_eat_the_marshmallow_yet.html [ted.com]

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