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Why your child’s social skills are more important than their academics

A child’s social skills around the time they are in kindergarten are a bigger indicator of their future chances of success than their academics, according to a 2015 study.

In this Thursday, May 23, 2013 photo, first graders from Lisa Cabrera-Terry’s class line up to go to lunch after recess at Jay W. Jeffers Elementary School, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
AP

A child’s social skills around the time they are in kindergarten are a bigger indicator of their future chances of success than their academics, according to a 2015 study.

Researchers of the study found that children who had better social skills in early childhood were more likely to succeed in the areas of education, employment and mental health. Findings also showed that these children were less likely to have issues with mental health or struggles with substance abuse.

Methods: For their study, researchers Damon E. Jones, Mark Greenberg and Max Crowley used data from the Fast Track study of children in low socioeconomic settings. The study consisted of a group of non-high risk students with a control group of high-risk students, and recruited participants from four locations, three of which were urban and one of which was rural.

  • The project first collected data in 1991 while the children were attending kindergarten. Final follow-up data was collected 19 years later when participants were around 25 years of age.
  • Researchers chose to focus on education, employment, public assistance, crime, mental health and substance abuse to examine whether their kindergarten teachers’ ratings of their social skills were indicative of possible issues in the future.

Here’s what researchers found:

  • Possible education success: Participants’ social skills while in kindergarten were predictive of whether or not they graduated from high school on time, obtained a college degree, were able to find steady employment in young adulthood and whether they were employed full time in young adulthood.
  • Public housing: The quality of participants’ social skills while in kindergarten negatively correlated with the likelihood of living in or being on a waitlist for public housing. These skills were also inversely predicative of any involvement with law enforcement before adulthood.
  • Problems: Researchers stated that while the results were mixed regarding the connection between early social skills and future issues with mental health, patterns were found in other areas, such as the internalization and externalization of problems.
  • Researchers said their findings were in accordance with those of other studies, specifically when examining the connections between self-control in early childhood and the ability to function effectively later on in life.