By Caitlin St John
July 30, 2015

You may joke with your friends that your daughter acts like she's five going on 25, but your child's social behavior at that age may predict her future more than you think. A study recently published online in the American Journal of Public Health found that prosocial behavior at age 5 can predict success in adulthood.

The study collected data from 700 individuals, who were part of the Fast Track Project, over the course of almost 20 years. In kindergarten, teachers answered questions about how their students interacted with other children in social situations. When the individuals reached their 20s, researchers from Penn State then followed up to determine how well they were managing. Researchers looked at education level, employment, use of public assistance, criminal activity, substance abuse, and mental health.

It turns out that individuals who had shown more prosocial skills in kindergarten were more likely to have graduated from college, be consistently employed, and less likely to have been arrested than those who had demonstrated less prosocial behavior at the same age.

According to the study's press release, for each one-point increase in a student's social competency score, he or she was twice as likely to graduate from college and 46 percent more likely to be employed full-time job by age 25.

"The good news is that social and emotional skills can improve," said senior research associate Damon Jones, "and this shows that we can inexpensively and efficiently measure these competencies at an early age."

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Image: Kindergarteners via Shutterstock


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