We all know that treating each other well is important — being kind makes you a happier person and, in general, just makes the world a better place to live in. Research has found that it even makes you more successful.
A study published in Public Health established a link between a child’s social skills in kindergarten and their success in early adulthood, CNN reports. The researchers observed that children who were more helpful and generous in kindergarten were more likely to graduate from college and have a full-time job at age 25. Meanwhile, children who had a harder time getting along with their peers were likelier to grow up to have substance abuse problems and a criminal record.
The study, conducted over 20 years, looked into the behavior of more than 700 students. The researchers first asked kindergarten teachers to assess their students’ social skills. When the kindergarteners reached their 20s, the researchers followed up to see how they were doing.
‘It is clear that helping children develop [social] skills increases their chances of success in school, work and life.’
“This research by itself doesn’t prove that higher social competence can lead to better outcomes later on,” said Damon Jones, senior research associate, in a media release. “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.”
The study’s findings make perfect sense. As The Washington Post points out, children with good social skills probably have an easier time making friends and getting affirmation from teachers, making them more likely to enjoy school and stay in school.
Steven Barnett, the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, told The Washington Post that this research confirms the belief that high-quality pre-school education can really make a difference. “It does offer the promise that if we can help kids get to this place by 5, that it will be sustaining,” he said. “You don’t have to worry that it is going to unravel.”
Academic achievement isn’t everything
This study shows that grades aren’t the end-all-and-be-all, and that educators should also spend time building social and emotional skills.
“Traditionally, we’re focused much more on academic achievement, and more and more, we’re realizing through many studies that academic achievement is only one part of making somebody successful,” Jones told CNN.
Emotional intelligence also takes you a long way in the business realm. “[Business leaders] know they want to hire people who can play well with others because they know it actually impacts the bottom line,” said Kristin Schubert, program director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the organization that funded the research.
So if your kindergartner has problems getting along with his classmates, does that mean that there isn’t any hope for him?
Absolutely not, the researchers say. Thankfully, social and emotional skills can be taught, through education or parenting.
“The good news is that social and emotional skills can improve, and this shows that we can inexpensively and efficiently measure these competencies at an early age,” said Jones.
READ: How to Enhance Your Child’s EQ