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FEATURE ARTICLE

Lifelong Impact of Early Self-Control

Childhood self-discipline predicts adult quality of life.

Terrie Moffitt, Richie Poulton, Avshalom Caspi

2013-09MoffittF1.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageSocial problems such as poor health, high crime, and poverty plague every country and population, costing governments with social programs a large portion of their budgets and causing strife among those enduring these hardships. What if we could find one lynchpin intervention that addressed all of these social problems at once? Economist and Nobel laureate James Heckman contemplated that increasing people's self-control could be such a lynchpin, and wondered when during a person's lifetime such an intervention would be most productive. The Dunedin Study, a longitudinal research program examining the psychological and physical well-being of a group of 1,000 people born in 1972 and 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand, turned out to offer the ideal data to address this question. The patterns in self-control and social well-being over the past three decades showed something remarkable: An individual's preschool self-control predicts their life satisfaction, crime record, income level, physical health, and parenting skill in adolescence and even adulthood. Authors Terrie Moffitt, Richie Poulton, and Avshalom Caspi argue that preschool education promoting self-control could have remarkable social impacts.


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