Boys whose teachers find them antisocial in kindergarten may have lower incomes as adults than their classmates who don’t have behavior problems, a new study suggests.
Those who paid less attention in class or didn’t interact well with classmates earned at least $1,300 less than their peers in adulthood.
Misbehaving in school has long been linked to lower levels of academic achievement and income, the researchers from the University of Montreal noted in JAMA Pediatrics.
But the new study offers a unique snapshot of this connection by examining behavior assessments done by kindergarten teachers and then looking at students’ earning on tax returns three decades later.
A new study has found that boys who are not social and don’t pay attention in kindergarten earn less money as adults than their peers who don’t have behavior problems (file image)
‘Kindergarten teacher assessments are good predictors of problems which accumulate over time – behavior problems with peers and adults, school failure, delinquent behavior, substance abuse, etc – and lead to poor job market integration,’ said senior study author Dr Sylvana Cote, a public health researcher at the University of Montreal.
For the study, researchers looked at 920 boys who were age six beginning in 1984 through 2015.
All of the boys were from low-income neighborhoods in Montreal, so researchers controlled for factors that might impact future earnings such as parents’ income and education levels, family structure and neighborhood poverty levels.
Their kindergarten teachers were asked to rate them on five behaviors: hyperactivity, inattention, opposition, physical aggression and pro-social behavior.
Pro-social behavior is behavior for the interests of others including helping and sharing.
The boys earned an average of about USD $28,866 a year by the time they were in their mid-30s, with annual income ranging from zero to $142,268.
Rising levels of inattention in kindergarten assessments were associated with $1,295 less in annual income, the study also found.
Over a 40-year career, the financial effect could amount to about $70,533 in lost income.
Teacher ratings of hyperactivity, opposition, and aggression didn’t appear to influence earnings later in life.
However, pro-social behaviors were linked with an average increase of $406 in annual earnings.
These results suggest that school-based programs designed to help students improve behavior when they’re young may have lifelong economic benefits, Dr Cote said.
‘If the school provides adequate support to these children from kindergarten onwards, they will succeed in school and have less problems with substance use and delinquent behavior,’ she said.
But it’s not clear whether results would be similar for students growing up in more affluent neighborhoods or for girls.
Teachers may also be biased in their assessments of behavior, said Dr Caroline Kistin, a pediatrics researcher at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in the study.
‘Prior research has demonstrated significant differences in how teachers rate child behavior based on child race, gender, and socioeconomic status,’ Dr Kistin said.
‘There are also known disparities in how students are treated in school, including who gets placed in separate special education tracks, who is required to repeat a year of school, and who gets suspended.’
Disparities in how students of color are treated in school can also start before kids even reach kindergarten, particularly for black males, she added.
To succeed in school and later in life, students need support that goes beyond the classroom.
‘Parents, teachers, and medical providers should work together to improve communication around child development and social skills, with a focus on early, supportive interventions when there are concerns,’ said Dr Kistin.