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. 2011 Feb 15;108(7):2693-8.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1010076108. Epub 2011 Jan 24.

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

Free PMC article

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

Terrie E Moffitt et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. .
Free PMC article


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.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Design of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Self-control gradient. Children with low self-control had poorer health (A), more wealth problems (B), more single-parent child rearing (C), and more criminal convictions (D) than those with high self-control.

Comment in

  • The significance of self-control.
    Duckworth AL. Duckworth AL. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Feb 15;108(7):2639-40. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1019725108. Epub 2011 Feb 7. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011. PMID: 21300864 Free PMC article. No abstract available.

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