Want Your Child to Land a Good Job? Teach Self-Control

smiling boyIn an economy that increasingly demands higher and higher levels of formal education, parents who want their kids to land good jobs can easily spend thousands on tutors, educational aids, and test preparation.

A new study suggests that parents who want their children to succeed might also want to focus on their children’s behavior. The study, published in Psychological Science, argues that higher levels of self-control are correlated with greater job success.

Childhood Self-Control and Higher Employment

Researchers pulled data from two different studies of British children, allowing them to track outcomes for more than 15,000 kids. Researchers assessed self-control in children as young as 7, defining self-control as the ability to suppress inappropriate behaviors, pay attention, and continue trying even when tasks become frustrating. Even when adjusting their results to account for other factors that can affect job success—including health, family background, intelligence, and social class—children with higher levels of self-control were more likely to find and keep jobs in adulthood.

Previous research has linked self-control to better job success in adults, but this study suggests that a child’s degree of self-control can affect his or her job prospects for decades. The study also provides insight into the challenges that external economic pressures can pose. Many of the children the study followed came of age during the recession of the 1980s. Those with low self-control who sought jobs during this period saw a marked spike in unemployment. Those with low self-control were not only more likely to lose their jobs, but also experienced more difficulties finding employment after a job loss.

This suggests that self-control issues can trap children—and the adults they become—into a cycle that’s difficult to break. A child with low self-control might be at a slight disadvantage in school, with the effects of low self-control steadily amplified over time. The study’s authors point out that self-control is highly malleable during early childhood, so preschool interventions that help children master self-control could have significant effects on their long-term job prospects.


Childhood self-control linked to enhanced job prospects throughout life. (2015, April 14). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/afps-csl041415.php

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  • Gage

    April 16th, 2015 at 11:01 AM

    So much of what our children do depends on us and the freedom that we allow them to have, as long as it is freedom with boundaries. I think that teaching them where those boundaries lie and then expecting them to closely follow that can be a real key toward them having control in situations where other children may feel a little too much out of control. I think that you give just enough wiggle room so that they can feel that they have a choice and that they can also learn to make wise and healthy decisions.

  • Joley

    April 17th, 2015 at 9:21 AM

    Look, my kids are young so the last thing that I have even let myself think about is whether as they get older they will get a good job.

    But I have thought a lot about the things that I can do to make them become respectful and diligent humans who are aware that the world does not revolve around them, and yes, having them learn some self control is a great place to start!

  • donna

    April 18th, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    I think that there are too many parents who just think that oh well, kids will be kids, some things can’t be changes. But there is such an important point in this article that kids are so flexible and malleable at a young age. This is the perfect time to tecah and have them soak up like little sponges exactly the kind of behavior that you want from them.

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