New psychological research supports parents’ efforts to have their children learn self-control.

As reported in the journal Psychological Science, investigators found that children with high self-control were much more likely to find and retain employment as adults than children with poor self-control.

The researchers found that children with high self-control were typically better able to pay attention, persist with difficult tasks, and suppress inappropriate or impulsive behaviors.

This discipline appears to aid employment opportunities as individuals spent 40 percent less time unemployed than those who had a lower capacity for self-control as children.

“The study highlights the importance of early life self-control as a powerful predictor of job prospects in adulthood,” said lead researcher Michael Daly, Ph.D., of the University of Stirling in Scotland.

While a link between adults’ self-control and immediate job success might seem obvious, it wasn’t clear whether measures of childhood self-control could forecast who successfully enters the workforce and avoids spells of unemployment across adult life.

In the research, investigators reviewed two studies of more than 15,000 British children to examine the link between self-control and adult unemployment.

Self-control was measured at ages as young as seven and the analyses adjusted for intelligence, social class, and family background and health factors. The results provided clear evidence linking self-control to unemployment rates across working life.

A review of the job market during the 1980s recession showed that those with low childhood self-control experienced a pronounced spike in joblessness during this difficult economic period.

Researchers found that those who experienced low childhood self-control were among the first to lose jobs during the recession and they also found it more difficult to regain employment.

This could be attributed to a range of factors including a heightened vulnerability to stress due to unemployment, the adverse effect of prolonged career interruptions on skill development and a greater likelihood of falling into habits which hinder their chances of regaining employment, such as poor time management and irregular sleep patterns.

“Less self-controlled children may be particularly vulnerable to unemployment during times of economic downturn in later life,” said Daly.

“Developing greater self-control in childhood, when the capacity for self-control is particularly malleable, could help buffer against unemployment during recessions and bring long-term benefits to society, through increased employment rates and productivity.”

“Preschool interventions, school programs, and activities such as yoga and martial arts, and walking meditation exercises have all been shown to help develop better self-control and related abilities,” Daly noted.

Source: Association for Psychological Science