ICPS 2015

Keynote Address

Young Children’s Self-Control and the Health and Wealth of Their Nation

Friday, 13 March 2015, 19:00 - 19:50

Subject Area: Clinical Science

Terrie E. Moffitt

Terrie E. Moffitt
Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, Duke University, USA

As the population ages, our children are becoming more and more valuable to us. Policy-makers are considering large-scale early intervention programs to enhance children's self-control, with the long-term aims of improving citizens' health and wealth and reducing crime. Experimental studies and economic analyses are suggesting that such programs could reap benefits for a nation. Yet, exactly how important is childhood self-control today for the health, wealth, and public safety of the adult population? We have followed a population-representative cohort of 1000 New Zealand children from their birth in 1972 to their early 40's. In this study, we found that childhood self-control assessed as young as age 3 predicts criminal offending, addiction, personal finances, social welfare benefit dependence, savings for retirement, and physical health and illness diagnosed via biomarkers. Even credit ratings and insurance claims. Children with weak self-control grown up looked older than their age. Children with good self-control grown up were satisfied and happy. These effects of the children's self-control could be disentangled from their intelligence and their parents' social-class background. In another cohort of 500 UK twin-sibling-pairs, the sibling with better self-control at age 5 had better life outcomes than his twin sibling with weaker self-control, despite sharing the same parents and family background. These predictions from childhood followed a gradient; each step up in self-control predicted ever better adult outcomes, which suggests that even bright children from well-to-do homes can benefit from learning better self-control skills. This study suggests a nation's health and wealth could be improved by enhancing self-control in all of its children. Early efforts to enhance the population's self-control skills might reduce taxpayer costs of crime control, health care, and old-age dependency. Learn more at this website: www.moffittcaspi.com

Through her work directing large-scale longitudinal studies, Terrie E. Moffitt has been able to link adult antisocial outcomes to their childhood origins. Her seminal dual taxonomy of antisocial and criminal behavior differentiates those who persist in these behaviors throughout adulthood from those who eventually reform as they become adults. Moffitt's groundbreaking gene-environment interaction studies were the first to show how certain environmental conditions can predict vulnerability to particular adult outcomes in the presence of a specific genotype. Her influential and integrative work has earned Moffitt a litany of awards, including the esteemed Stockholm Prize in Criminology in 2007.

Read more about Terrie E. Moffitt.

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