HOW IS SELF-CONTROL A PREDICTOR OF A CHILD'S HEALTH FUTURE?

Updated: Jan 27

What if your child's behavior, specifically their level of self-control, could be used as an indicator of your child's health future, emotional well-being, and overall success as an adult?

Over the course of the past several decades, a team of doctors and researchers in New Zealand have discovered just such a correlation.


How does a self-control impact a child's health future?

The Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, also known as The Dunedin Study, was started in New Zealand by Dr. Phil A. Silva at the Dunedin School of Medicine, the University of Otago in 1972. Over the course of the past 50 years, it has followed the lives of 1,037 people (every baby born at a specific hospital in 1972), spawned a number of substudies, and produced more than 1,300 publications and reports.


The longitudinal study has found that a child's self-control, even more so than a high IQ, is one of the biggest indicators of a successful and healthy life outcome.



WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF THE DUNEDIN STUDY?


The Dunedin Study was designed to investigate broader questions of children's health and mental development and the long-term impacts on their lives.


The focus was on studying the nature and prevalence of some developmental and health problems seen in three-year-olds, and some of the factors associated with those problems.


WHAT MAKES THE DUNEDIN STUDY SO UNIQUE?


The identity of the 1,037 members of the study is closely guarded. In fact, the research team has gone on record saying that their identities will never be released. This confidentiality has created a safe environment that has allowed the research team full, complete, and unedited access to the lives of the study members.


As such, it is considered to be one of the most comprehensive and purest physical and psychological studies completed on modern humans.


WHAT DID THE DUNEDIN STUDY FIND?


The Dunedin Study has found that childhood self-control is able to accurately predict physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending outcomes in a person's life. Some of the specific health categories include:

  • Cardiovascular health and risk factors

  • Respiratory health

  • Oral health

  • Sexual and reproductive health

  • Mental health

  • Psychosocial functioning

  • Other health, including sensory, musculoskeletal, and digestive

A detailed explanation of The Dunedin Study and the findings thus far can be found in the TEDxTalk segment feature Dr. Richie Poulton, the current Director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit.



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