Control Yourself: Early Uh-Ohs

Article excerpt

In his late seventies, Leo Tolstoy supposedly said, "As I was at five, so I am now." That remark may be more apt than the one about all happy families being alike. A new study finds that behavior in children as young as three can predict troubles in adulthood.

In Dunedin, New Zealand, researchers studied about 1,000 individuals from birth until age 32. During the period when the subjects were ages three to 11, the researchers gauged their powers of self-control, based on firsthand observation as well as reports from parents, teachers, and the children themselves. Among the measures were whether the children could handle frustration, wait their turn, and stick to a task.

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Terrie E. Moffitt of Duke University and a dozen coauthors report the results in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Feb. 15). When they reached adolescence, the children with low self-control were more likely to begin smoking, drop out of school, and become teenage parents. In adulthood, they were more likely to be raising their own children in one-parent households, to suffer from high blood pressure and other health problems, to be in debt, and to have criminal records. …