A Gradient of Childhood Self-Control Predicts Health, Wealth, and Public Safety

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Feb 15;108(7):2693-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1010076108. Epub 2011 Jan 24.

Abstract

Policy-makers are considering large-scale programs aimed at self-control to improve citizens' health and wealth and reduce crime. Experimental and economic studies suggest such programs could reap benefits. Yet, is self-control important for the health, wealth, and public safety of the population? Following a cohort of 1,000 children from birth to the age of 32 y, we show that childhood self-control predicts physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending outcomes, following a gradient of self-control. Effects of children's self-control could be disentangled from their intelligence and social class as well as from mistakes they made as adolescents. In another cohort of 500 sibling-pairs, the sibling with lower self-control had poorer outcomes, despite shared family background. Interventions addressing self-control might reduce a panoply of societal costs, save taxpayers money, and promote prosperity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Personality / physiology*
  • Psychology, Child
  • Public Policy
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Control, Informal*
  • Socioeconomic Factors