The Dunedin Study: Self-Control Counts

Everyone likes a story with a happy ending. When you raise a child, you want his or her story to be one that continues to a productive, rewarding future. In a novel, conflict¬†and an explosive plot fire the imagination, but a stormy story isn’t one we want for our children. Every child must learn to manage¬†emotions appropriately and control impulses.

Success in life depends on learning self-control. Research confirms that children who develop self-control have better outcomes in adolescence and adulthood. The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, an ongoing study conducted by the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, is following a group of more than 1,000 people from birth to mid-life. The researchers examine real-world outcomes and have identified self-control as a significant predictor of health, wealth, and criminal activity in adulthood.

A composite measure of self-control as observed throughout childhood is strongly related to a spectrum of outcomes in adulthood, including health outcomes (such as respiratory disease and substance abuse); economic well-being (including savings and home ownership); and criminal activity (being convicted of a crime by age 32). Subjects whose level of self-control increased from childhood to adolescence showed more positive outcomes. The study found that children with low self-control were likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyle behaviors as teenagers.

The Dunedin study just confirms what common sense tells us – the earlier that we intervene, the better our chances of making a positive difference.

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