Can Distraction and a Lack of Self Control as a Child Lead to Decreased Adult Success?

Can we help our students to cope with the many distractions they encounter? This longitudinal study examines the relationship between childhood self-control and adult outcome factors, including health and financial stability. Self-control had a stronger relationship with the adult outcome factors than other predictor variables, including socioeconomic status. The sample consisted of over 1,000 children in New Zealand born in the 1970s who were observed over a period of eight years and then revisited when they reached the age of 32. The study suggests that children avoiding overwhelming distraction through self-control is related to better health and financial well-being as adults. While this study supports self-control training and development for children from a young age, it should raise questions about how success is defined and whether or not other factors in childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood could also impact the factors for success.


Moffitt, TE, Arseneault, L, Belsky, D, Dickson, N, Hancox, RJ, Harrington, HL, Houts, R, Poulton, R, Roberts, B, Ross, S., Sears, M, Thomson, M, and Caspi, A. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, PNAS, 108:  2693-2698.