Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 22nd 2015 Contents A26
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, July 22, 2015
In our household, we re still talking about the
critically acclaimed box office smash Inside Out,
Pixar s animated look at the emotions inside a
child s brain. It came up most recently when we
watched Serena Williams cruise to another victory
at this year s Wimbledon, and my youngest daugh-
ter, aged seven, remarked that her "Joy"---the char-
acter who controls happiness in the movie---must
be going wild. During the match, Serena s "Angry"
must have been at her brain s control panel, we
I thought of the movie recently as I learned about
a new study that showcases just how critical it can
be for a child to be able to understand emotions
and relate to the world.
Every parent intuitively knows it s a good thing
to teach their child how to share and play well with
others, and how to deal with emotions like anger
and sadness, but do most of us have any sense of
just how important these so-called social and emo-
tional skills can be to our child s long-term suc-
The new study, a comprehensive 20-year exam-
ination of 800 children from kindergarten through
their mid-20s published Thursday in the American
Journal of Public Health, found a link between a
child s social skills in kindergarten and how well
they were doing in early adulthood.
Children who were helpful and shared in kinder-
garten were more likely to have graduated college
and have a full-time job at age 25. The children
who had problems resolving conflicts, sharing, co-
operating and listening as kindergartners were less
likely to have finished high school and college, and
were more likely to have substance abuse problems
and run-ins with the law.
The findings are "huge" when it comes to the
thinking about how brain health impacts a person s
overall health, said Kristin Schubert, programme
director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,
which funded the research.
"It s like a paradigm shift around what it means
to be mentally well at an early age and how that
dictates how life goes for you later on," she said.
Emotional skills can be taught
To conduct the study, researchers from Penn
State University and Duke University looked at
teacher evaluations of kindergartners social com-
petency skills, which were conducted in 1991.
Teachers evaluated the children based on factors
such as whether they listened to others, shared
materials, resolved problems with their peers and
were helpful. Each student was then given an overall
score to rate their positive skills and behaviour,
with zero representing the lowest level and four
for students who demonstrated the highest level
of social skills and behaviour.
Researchers then analysed what happened to the
children in young adulthood, taking a look at
whether they completed high school and college
and held a full-time job, and whether they had any
criminal justice, substance abuse or mental prob-
For every one-point increase in a child s social
competency score in kindergarten, they were twice
as likely to obtain a college degree, and 46 per cent
more likely to have a full-time job by age 25.
For every one-point decrease in a child s social
skill score in kindergarten, he or she had a 67 per
cent higher chance of having been arrested in early
adulthood, a 52 per cent higher rate of binge drinking
and an 82 per cent higher chance of being in or
on a waiting list for public housing.
"We were surprised but not completely surprised"
by the findings, said Damon Jones of Penn State
University, the lead researcher for the study.
Jones said he and his fellow researchers knew
the importance of social and emotional competency
Behaviour in kindergarten
linked to adult success
in a child s development, but didn t quite expect
to find as strong a correlation between those skills
and a child s long-term well-being, even with other
variables factored out, such as a family s socioeco-
nomic status and the child s academic ability.
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Kindergartners with good social skills are more likely to succeed as adults, the
study says. PHOTO: COMPENDIUM BLOGS
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