Parents, of course, love to read too much into the small steps of a child’s development. But could it really be that the self-control kids learn to exert when they are very young is an indicator of the adult lives they will lead?
Right from the start, they are taught to restrain their impulses, focus on their goals, and control their choices. This seems like a wise move, but how could you tell if such instruction actually affects a child’s fate?
Ideally, you would follow a group of children into adulthood, to see how their degree of self-control affects the course of their lives. You’d need to catch up with them at regular intervals to look at their health, mental state, finances and more. You’d need to meticulously plan the study decades before the important results came in, and you’d need to keep in close touch with the volunteers so they stick with the study. In short, you’d need to have set up the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.
That study began in the mid-1970s, and all these years later, nearly all of the thousand-plus participants (who were born in 1972 or 1973) are still involved. The huge data set Terrie Moffit and Avshalom Caspi have obtained shows that those who scored highest on self-control tests in the first years of their lives were healthier and wealthier than their peers into their 30s.
For all the details, check out the rest of Ed’s post at Not Exactly Rocket Science.
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