Doing Life Together

children sleepingPreschool, a time of fun activity, hands on learning and playing with other children.

But preschool social interactions may tell us something about the future direction of those children. What if I told you that watching the play and interaction of nursery school kids could help us identify future criminals?

A soon to be published study in the American Journal of Public Health observed pre-schoolers to see if their social-emotional skills told us anything about their future potential. Researchers at Penn State University, Duke University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Washington conducted a study that followed 700 children over 20 years. These children were observed sharing with others, being helpful to others, and resolving peer problems on their own.

Teachers then rated the children on eight dimensions using a five point scale regarding social interactions.

When those same children were in their late teens to age 25, they were assessed again on five key areas:  education and employment, public assistance, criminal activity, substance abuse and mental health.

Children who were successful in nursery school were also successful on the five areas assessed as young adults. But the chances of being arrested or living in public housing were increased for those who received lower scores as children. The study did control for factors like poverty, stress, neighborhood crime, etc.

The results are not cause and effect, but may point to the need for early intervention. Social and emotional skills can be taught and improved throughout life. And if better skills could impact a child’s future adjustment, they would be worth some attention.

So while preschool may be a time of play, the way children play can possibly tell us a few things about their future.


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