A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety

Terrie E. Moffitt, Louise Arseneault, Daniel Belsky, Nigel Dickson, Robert J. Hancox, Hona Lee Harrington, Renate Houts, Richie Poulton, Brent W. Roberts, Stephen Ross, Malcolm R. Sears, W. Murray Thomson, Avshalom Caspi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Policy-makers are considering large-scale programs aimed at selfcontrol to improve citizens' health and wealth and reduce crime. Experimental and economic studies suggest such programs could reap benefits. Yet, is self-control important for the health, wealth, and public safety of the population? Following a cohort of 1,000 children from birth to the age of 32 y, we show that childhood selfcontrol predicts physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending outcomes, following a gradient of self-control. Effects of children's self-control could be disentangled from their intelligence and social class as well as from mistakes they made as adolescents. In another cohort of 500 sibling-pairs, the sibling with lower self-control had poorer outcomes, despite shared family background. Interventions addressing self-control might reduce a panoply of societal costs, save taxpayers money, and promote prosperity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2693-2698
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume108
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 15 2011

Keywords

  • Life course
  • Longitudinal
  • Public policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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