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Social & Emotional Skills: Not Hippie Nonsense, It’s Science

Posted by Peter Barnes on March 3, 2017 at 4:39 PM

kids_playground.jpgBeing smart, learning well and getting good marks isn’t a guarantee of success after school or university. There is more to it than that, according to newly published research.  

Teaching kids to get in touch with their feelings is really important for their success in education and later in life.

And that’s not just a new age, hippie belief. It’s backed by science.

A study of 800 kindergarten children looked at their social skills and how they turned out 19 years later as young adults.

The study - Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness- was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The researchers concluded:

  • Kids who related well to their peers in kindergarten, handled their emotions better, and were good at resolving problems went on to have more successful lives.
  • There are statistically significant associations between social-emotional skills in kindergarten and young adult outcomes in education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health.
  • An increase of a single point in social competency score in kindergarten showed a child would be:
    • 54% more likely to finish high school
    • Twice as likely to graduate from university or college, and
    • 46% more likely to have a stable, full-time job at age 25 
  • Success in school involves both social-emotional and cognitive skills, because social interactions, attention, and self-control affect readiness for learning.

So what does this mean for teachers and parents? 

The 19-year study paints a pretty clear picture: Pro-social behavior matters, even at a young age. 

We need to do more than just teach kids information. We need to invest in teaching them how to relate to others and how to handle the things they're feeling inside. Because social and emotional skills can be learned, they are a great target for prevention or intervention efforts.

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Topics: Social & Emotional Learning

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