Disruptive behaviour by boys in Kinder linked to lower earnings later in life
The Sector > Research > Disruptive behaviour by boys in Kinder linked to lower earnings later in life

Disruptive behaviour by boys in Kinder linked to lower earnings later in life

by Freya Lucas

June 21, 2019

Recent evidence gathered by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University has found that inattention and disruptive behaviours by boys in Kindergarten are associated with lower earnings and prosocial behaviour by boys in the same cohort with higher earnings.


The researchers noted that disruptive behaviorus in childhood are among the most prevalent and costly mental health problems in industrialised countries, and are associated with significant negative long-term outcomes for individuals and society.


Recent evidence suggests that disruptive behavioural problems in the first years of life are an important early predictor of lower employment earnings in adulthood.


The Carnegie Mellon study used longitudinal data to examine boys from low-income backgrounds to determine which behaviours in kindergarten are associated with earnings in adulthood.


Professor Daniel Nagin, co-author, explained that identifying early childhood behaviour problems associated with economic success or failure is essential for developing targeted interventions that enhance economic prosperity through improved educational attainment and social integration.


The study explored the lives and behaviour of 920 boys who were 6 years old and lived in low-income neighbourhoods in Montreal, Canada, beginning in 1984 and continuing through 2015.


The boys’ kindergarten teachers were asked to rate the boys on five behaviours typically assessed at that age: inattention, hyperactivity, physical aggression, opposition, and prosocial behaviour. Prosocial behaviour is defined as social behaviour that benefits others, like helping, cooperating, and sharing.


Findings revealed that the teachers’ ratings of boys’ inattention—characterised as poor concentration, distractibility, ‘having one’s head in the clouds’, and lacking persistence—were associated with lower earnings when the students were 35 to 36 years old. In addition, prosocial behaviour was associated with higher earnings; examples of prosocial behaviour included trying to stop quarrels, inviting bystanders to join in a game, and trying to help someone who has been hurt.


Both findings took into account children’s IQ (assessed at age 13) and their families’ adversity (parents’ educational level and occupational status). Earnings were measured by government tax return data.


The study found that hyperactivity, aggression, and opposition were not significantly associated with changes in later earnings.


Sylvana Cote from the University of Montreal and the University of Bordeaux was also involved in exploring the data, noting that, by monitoring inattention and low levels of prosocial behaviour, at-risk boys can be identified early and targeted with intervention and support.

The study, Association of Behavior in Boys From Low Socioeconomic Neighborhoods With Employment Earnings in Adulthood involved researchers from Carnegie Mellon University working alongside those from the University of Montreal, University College Dublin, Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center, L’Observatoire Français des Conjonctures Économiques, Centre pour la Recherche Économique et ses Applications, Statistics Canada, and Université de Bordeaux, with the resulting findings published JAMA Pediatrics and available to view here.

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