Who knew that kindergartners who share, cooperate and help are more likely to be successful later in life?
That is exactly what researchers from Pennsylvania State University found after analyzing 753 children in Durham, N.C., Seattle, Nashville and rural Pennsylvania. The kindergartners were evaluated on a range of social behaviors including their ability to resolve peer problems, listen to others, share materials, cooperate and be helpful. The research team monitored the students until they turned 25.
The study found that children who were more likely to share or be helpful in kindergarten were also more likely to obtain higher education and hold full-time jobs nearly two decades later. Students who lacked these social competency skills were more likely to face more negative outcomes by age 25, including substance abuse problems, challenges finding employment or run-ins with the law.
Utilizing a five-point scale, researchers assessed each child’s social interaction with other children. Overall, their findings showed that a higher rating for social competency as a kindergartner was significantly associated with all five of the outcomes studied.
Controlling for the effects of poverty, race, having teenage parents, family stress, neighborhood crime, and for the children’s aggression and reading levels in kindergarten, researchers found that for every one-point increase in a student’s social competency score, he or she was:
For every one-point decrease in the child’s score, he or she had a:
“The good news is that social and emotional skills can improve,” says Damon Jones, Ph.D., senior research associate at Pennsylvania State and lead author of this study. “This research by itself doesn’t prove that higher social competence can lead to better outcomes later on. But when combined with other research, it is clear that helping children develop these skills increases their chances of success in school, work and life.”
This study reinforces much of what research has said for years: that high-quality relationships and rich social interactions in the home, school and community prepare children for what lies ahead. We cannot underestimate the importance of stability in the life of a child.
From parents and extended family to child care providers and neighbors, everybody can play a role in helping young children develop these social-emotional skills.
How often do you provide children in your care the opportunity to:
Allowing children to have these opportunities is clearly beneficial, far beyond kindergarten. It is often easier for the adult in charge to make these things happen; however, easy is not always best.