+
Researchers studied kindergarteners' behavior and followed up 19 years later. Here are the findings.

This article originally appeared on 08.12.15


Every parent wants to see their kid get good grades in school. But now we know social success is just as important.

From an early age, we're led to believe our grades and test scores are the key to everything — namely, going to college, getting a job, and finding that glittery path to lifelong happiness and prosperity.


It can be a little stressful.

All GIFs from "Billy Madison."

But a new study shows that when children learn to interact effectively with their peers and control their emotions, it can have an enormous impact on how their adult lives take shape. And according to the study, kids should be spending more time on these skills in school.

Nope, it's not hippie nonsense. It's science.

Researchers measured the social skills of 800 kindergarteners in 1991. Two decades later, they looked them up to see how things turned out.

Kindergarten teachers evaluated the kids with a portion of something called the Social Competence Scale by rating statements like "The child is good at understanding other's feelings" on a handy "Not at all/A little/Moderately well/Well/Very well" scale.

The research team used these responses to give each kid a "social competency score," which they then stored in what I assume was a manila folder somewhere for 19 years, or until each kid was 25. At that point, they gathered some basic information about the now-grown-ups and did some fancy statistical stuff to see whether their early social skills held any predictive value.

Here's what they found.

1. Those good test scores we covet? They still matter, but maybe not for the reasons we thought.

Traditional thinking says that if a kid gets good grades and test scores, he or she must be really smart, right? After all, there is a proven correlation between having a better GPA in high school and making more money later in life.

But what that test score doesn't tell you is how many times a kid worked with a study partner to crack a tough problem, or went to the teacher for extra help, or resisted the urge to watch TV instead of preparing for a test.

The researchers behind this project wrote, "Success in school involves both social-emotional and cognitive skills, because social interactions, attention, and self-control affect readiness for learning."

That's a fancy way of saying that while some kids may just be flat-out brilliant, most of them need more than just smarts to succeed. Maybe it wouldn't hurt spending a little more time in school teaching kids about the social half of the equation.

2. Skills like sharing and cooperating pay off later in life.

We know we need to look beyond GPA and state-mandated testing to figure out which kids are on the right path. That's why the researchers zeroed in so heavily on that social competency score.

What they found probably isn't too surprising: Kids who related well to their peers, handled their emotions better, and were good at resolving problems went on to have more successful lives.

What's surprising is just how strong the correlation was.

An increase of a single point in social competency score showed a child would be 54% more likely to earn a high school diploma, twice as likely to graduate with a college degree, and 46% more likely to have a stable, full-time job at age 25.

The kids who were always stealing toys, breaking things, and having meltdowns? More likely to have run-ins with the law and substance abuse problems.

The study couldn't say for sure that strong or poor social skills directly cause any of these things. But we can say for sure that eating too much glue during arts and crafts definitely doesn't help.

3. Social behaviors can be learned and unlearned — meaning it's never too late to change.

The researchers called some of these pro-social behaviors like sharing and cooperating "malleable," or changeable.

Let's face it: Some kids are just never going to be rocket scientists. Turns out there are physical differences in our brains that make learning easier for some people than others. But settling disputes with peers? That's something kids (and adults) can always continue to improve on.

And guess what? For a lot of kids, these behaviors come from their parents. The more you're able to demonstrate positive social traits like warmth and empathy, the better off your kids will be.

So can we all agree to stop yelling at people when they take the parking spot we wanted?

But what does it all mean?

This study has definite limitations, which its researchers happily admit. While it did its best to control for as many environmental factors as possible, it ultimately leans pretty heavily on whether a teacher thought a kid was just "good" or "very good" at a given trait.

Still, the 19-year study paints a pretty clear picture: Pro-social behavior matters, even at a young age. And because it can be learned, it's a great "target for prevention or intervention efforts."

The bottom line? We need to do more than just teach kids information. We need to invest in teaching them how to relate to others and how to handle the things they're feeling inside.

Ignoring social skills in our curricula could have huge ramifications for our kids down the road.

True

Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!

However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!

Keep ReadingShow less
popular

Artist captures how strangers react to her body in public and it's fascinating

Haley Morris-Cafiero's photos might make you rethink how you look at people.

Credit: Haley Morris-Cafiero

Artist Haley Morris-Cafiero describes herself on her website as "part performer, part artist, part provocateur, part spectator." Her recent project, titled "Wait Watchers" has elements of all her self-descriptors.

In an email to us, Morris-Cafiero explained that she set up a camera in the street and stood in front of it, doing mundane activities like looking at a map or eating gelato. While she's standing there she sets off her camera, taking hundreds of photos.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

This Giving Tuesday, Furbo makes it easier than ever to support dogs in need

Every Furbo purchase helps provide additional support for dog shelters & rescues.

Image via Furbo

Furbo is using Giving Tuesday to support dogs in need

Every year, six million lost or abandoned animals end up in shelters or rescues. Thankfully, 76% of those pets are adopted by their forever family. Of course, the dream is to find every stray animal a loving home, but getting there takes time, money, and resources.


If you’re a dog lover, especially with a rescue pup, you understand the importance of supporting animal rescue organizations and shelters. Like you, Furbo Dog Camera wants to ensure all dogs are safe and happy at home. That’s why they founded Furbo For Good, the company’s charitable initiative that supports rescued dogs. And this Giving Tuesday, they’ll be doing more for pets in need than ever before!

Keep ReadingShow less

A metal detector hobbyist looking for treasure on the beach.

Joseph Cook, 37, is a popular metal detectorist on social media where he shares videos of the many treasures he finds on Florida beaches. But what’s even more engaging than his finds is the incredible excitement he brings to the hobby. It’s like watching Steve Irwin, but with a Florida accent.

Not only is his attitude infectious but he also makes a point of doing good when he finds lost items. He wears a necklace around his neck with multiple rings that he’s found to remind him of his mission to return lost treasures.

Recently, he told SWNS that he dug up "the biggest diamond I ever found” on the beach. "When I first found it I thought it would just be a nickel, but then I dug it up and it was just this big old diamond and platinum ring," he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Dwayne Johnson 'rights a wrong' at the 7-Eleven he used to shoplift from as a kid

The Rock admitted to stealing a Snickers bar every day for almost a year.

Johnson bought every Snickers bar in the store to "right a wrong"

Dwayne Johnson is a celebrity known for his generosity. Sure people know about his one-of-a-kind eyebrow raise an insane gym schedule, but it’s also common knowledge that he regularly makes surprise appearances to those in need. Not to mention his gifts are legendary—from puppies to trucks to houses.

So, it might not seem that out of the ordinary for the wrestler-turned-actor to buy every single Snickers bar at a 7-eleven and give them to customers for free. However, this was more than a good deed—it was an act of redemption.

As the “Black Adam” star shared in a video posted to his Instagram, this was the 7-Eleven he used to shoplift from while growing up in Hawaii.
Keep ReadingShow less