Social skills in kindergarten linked to positive outcomes in adulthood (study)

One of my oldest memories was how I upset mrs Yvonne in kindergarten because I took a plastic swan-on-wheels (don’t ask) from another kid. Does this say something about my present social skills? Good question, but a new study I found via Best Evidence in Brief does show a link:

Data for the study came from the longitudinal Fast Track project, an intervention designed to reduce aggression in children identified as high risk for long-term behavioral problems and conduct disorders. As part of Fast Track, nearly 800 children were evaluated by their teachers on a range of social behaviors, such as whether they resolve peer problems, listen to others, and share materials. Each student received a composite score representing his or her overall level of positive social skills/behavior on a scale from 0 (“not at all”) to 4 (“very well”). Using a variety of data sources, researchers monitored these students and their life events, both positive (e.g., obtaining a high school diploma) and negative (e.g., developing a criminal record), until they turned 25.

Findings showed that for every one-point increase in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she was:

  • Twice as likely to attain a college degree in early adulthood
  • 54% more likely to earn a high school diploma
  • 46% more likely to have a full-time job at the age of 25   

For every one-point decrease in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she had:

  • 64% higher chance of having spent time in juvenile detention
  • 67% higher chance of having been arrested by early adulthood
  • 52% higher rate of recent binge drinking and 82% higher rate of recent marijuana usage   

In conclusion, the authors say, “Our results suggest that perceived early social competence at least serves as a marker for important long-term outcomes and at most is instrumental in influencing other developmental factors that collectively affect the life course. Evaluating such characteristics in children could be important in planning interventions and curricula to improve these social competencies.”

Abstract of the study:

Objectives. We examined whether kindergarten teachers’ ratings of children’s prosocial skills, an indicator of noncognitive ability at school entry, predict key adolescent and adult outcomes. Our goal was to determine unique associations over and above other important child, family, and contextual characteristics.

Methods. Data came from the Fast Track study of low–socioeconomic status neighborhoods in 3 cities and 1 rural setting. We assessed associations between measured outcomes in kindergarten and outcomes 13 to 19 years later (1991– 2000). Models included numerous control variables representing characteristics of the child, family, and context, enabling us to explore the unique contributions among predictors.

Results. We found statistically significant associations between measured social-emotional skills in kindergarten and key young adult outcomes across multiple domains of education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health.

Conclusions. A kindergarten measure of social-emotional skills may be useful for assessing whether children are at risk for deficits in noncognitive skills later in life and, thus, help identify those in need of early intervention. These results demonstrate the relevance of noncognitive skills in development for personal and public health outcomes.

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Filed under At home, Education, Research

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