Friday, June 28, 2019

Behavioral Assessments of Kindergarteners May Predict Future Earnings, Study Suggests

Behavioral assessments of children at a young age may offer clues about their employment earnings in adulthood, according to a study in JAMA Psychiatry. Specifically, the study found that higher teacher ratings of inattention and aggression-opposition in kindergarten boys and inattention in kindergarten girls seemed to be associated with lower future earnings after controlling for child IQ and family adversity.

“This study adds to a growing body of literature showing that childhood inattention, antisocial behavior, and low levels of prosociality act as channels for adverse social and economic outcomes in adulthood,” wrote Francis Vergunst, D.Phil., of the University of Montreal and colleagues. “Early monitoring and support for children exhibiting high inattention, aggression-opposition, and low levels of prosocial behaviors could have long-term socioeconomic advantages for those individuals and society.”

The findings were based on data obtained from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Kindergarten Children—a population-based sample of boys and girls born in 1980 or 1981 in Quebec, Canada, who were followed up through December 2015. As part of the longitudinal study, kindergarten teachers used the Social Behavior Questionnaire to rate students on a three-point scale (0, never true; 1, sometimes or somewhat true; 2, often true) on the following behaviors: anxiety, hyperactivity, inattention, opposition (for example, disobeying and blaming others), physical aggression, and prosociality (for example, helping and showing sympathy toward others). Vergunst and colleagues evaluated the associations between the teacher ratings and reported annual earnings on income tax returns of those same participants at age 33 to 35 years.

The study included 2,850 participants, with a mean age of 35.9 years, of whom 1,470 (51.6%) were male and 2,740 (96.2%) were white. The mean personal earnings at follow-up were U.S. $33,300 for men and $19,400 for women. Higher child IQ was associated with higher earnings, and greater family adversity during childhood was associated with lower earnings for both male and female participants.

A 1-unit increase in inattention score at age 6 years was associated with a decrease in annual earnings of $1,271.49 for male participants and $924.25 for female participants, after the authors adjusted for childhood IQ and family adversity. A combined aggression-opposition score was associated with a reduction in earnings of $699.83 for male participants only, and a 1-unit increase in prosociality score was associated with an increase in earnings of $476.75 for male participants only.

Vergunst and colleagues concluded, “Screening [of children] should begin in kindergarten, in which population-wide assessment is feasible, teachers have a sense of normative social behavior, and teachers’ ratings of children’s behaviors have good predictive validity across a range of outcomes.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Prospective Study Delves Deeper Into Mental Health Effects of Childhood Trauma.”

(Image: iStock/monkeybusinessimages)


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