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Child's self control predicts future health, success

[ 2011-01-31 14:26]     字号 [] [] []  
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Child's self control predicts future health, success

From a very early age, some children exhibit better self-control than others. Now, a new study that began with about 1,000 children in New Zealand has tracked how a child's low self-control can predict poor health, money troubles and even a criminal record in their adult years.

Researchers have been studying this group of children for decades now. Some of their earier observations have to do with the level of self-control the youngsters displayed. Parents, teachers, even the kids themselves, scored the youngsters on measures like "acting before thinking" and "persistence in reaching goals."

Now the children of the study are adults in their 30s. Terrie Moffitt of Duke University and her research colleagues found that kids with self-control issues tended to grow up to become adults with a far more troubling set of issues to deal with.

"The children who had the lowest self-control when they were age three to ten, early years, later on had the most health problems in their 30s," Moffitt said, "and they had the worst financial situation. They were more likely to have a criminal record and to be raising a child as a single parent on a very low income."

Speaking from New Zealand via skype, Moffitt explained that self-control problems were widely observed, and weren't just a feature of a small group of misbehaving kids.

"Even the children who had above-average self-control as pre-schoolers, could have benefited from more self-control training. They could have improved their financial situation and their physical and mental health situation 30 years later."

So, children with minor self-control problems were likely as adults to have minor health problems, and so on.

Moffitt said it's still unclear why some children have better self-control than others, though she said other researchers have found that it's mostly a learned behavior, with relatively little genetic influence. But good self-control can be set to run in families because children with good self-control are more likely to grow up to be healthy and prosperous parents.

"Whereas some of the low-self-control study members are more likely to be single parents with a very low income and the parent is in poor health and likely to be a heavy substance abuser," said Moffitt. "So that's not a good atmosphere for a child. So it looks as though self-control is something that in one generation can disadvantage the next generation."

But the good news, Moffitt said, is that self-control can be taught by parents, and through school curricula that have been shown to be effective.

Terrie Moffitt's paper on the link between study of childhood self control and adult status dacades later is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Related stories:


Life is the greatest teacher 生活是最伟大的老师


The Only Child: Not a Loner? 独生子女就不合群吗?

(来源:VOA 编辑:崔旭燕)