Nav: Home

Study links responsible behavior in high school to life success 50 years later

February 26, 2018

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A new study links doing one's homework, being interested and behaving responsibly in high school to better academic and career success as many as 50 years later. This effect, reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, holds true even after accounting for parental income, IQ and other factors known to influence achievement, researchers report.

"Yes, intelligence is important to life success and so is family socioeconomic status; we've known this for a while," said University of Illinois psychology professor Brent Roberts, who conducted the study with Rodica Damian of the University of Houston and Marion Spengler of the University of Tuebingen. "Studies have shown that personality traits such as conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness also correspond to higher academic and career achievement. But these are traits you're more or less born with. We wanted to know if factors under the control of the individual at a young age might also play a role."

The study analyzed decades of data collected by the American Institutes for Research beginning in 1960 and continuing to the present. The original data set included more than 370,000 students. High school participants were originally tested on academic, cognitive and behavioral characteristics in 1960 and also responded to follow-up surveys in later years. The new analysis looked at the initial student tests and their responses 11 years and 50 years later.

Of the 1,952 participants randomly selected from those who responded to surveys 50 years later, "those who showed more interest in high school and had higher writing skills reported earning higher incomes," said Spengler, who led the study. "They also tended to have higher occupational prestige than their peers when they showed responsible behaviors as a student." This was in addition to the gains associated with IQ, family income and personality traits such as conscientiousness, she said.

Further analyses revealed that education was likely the factor mediating the relationship between high school behavior and later success in life.

"It seems that these early individual differences are relevant across the life span through the lens of education," the researchers wrote.

While the study kept track of participants over a period of 50 years, the methods used only point to an association between factors and outcomes and do not prove that good behavior in high school inevitably leads to career success later in life, Damian said.

"This study does, however, highlight the possibility that certain behaviors at crucial periods could have long-term consequences for a person's life," she said.
-end-
Editor's notes:

To reach Brent Roberts, email bwrobrts@illinois.edu.

To reach Rodica Damian, email ridamian@uh.edu.

To reach Marion Spengler, email marion.spengler@uni-tuebingen.de.

The paper "How you behave in school predicts life success above and beyond family background, broad traits, and cognitive ability" is available online and from the U. of I. News Bureau.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related Personality Articles:

Infant temperament predicts personality more than 20 years later
Researchers investigating how temperament shapes adult life-course outcomes have found that behavioral inhibition in infancy predicts a reserved, introverted personality at age 26.
State of mind: The end of personality as we know it
In a study published today researchers propose that changing states of mind are holistic in that they exert all-encompassing and coordinated effects simultaneously on our perception, attention, thought, affect, and behavior.
Want to change your personality? It may not be easy to do alone
Most people want to change an aspect of their personality, but left to their own devices, they may not be successful in changing, research shows.
How personality predicts seeing others as sex objects
Several personality traits related to psychopathy -- especially being openly antagonistic -- predict a tendency to view others as merely sex objects, finds a study by psychologists at Emory University.
Scientists say you can change your personality
A review of recent research in personality science points to the possibility that personality traits can change through persistent intervention and major life events.
Personality traits affect retirement spending
How quickly you spend your savings in retirement may have as much or more to do with your personality than whether you have a lot of debt or want to leave an inheritance.
For the first time: A method for measuring animal personality
A study on mice shows animal research may need to take into account the connection between genes, behavior and personality.
Your spending data may reveal aspects of your personality
How you spend your money can signal aspects of your personality, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The sun may have a dual personality, simulations suggest
A deep dive into the sun's interior provides new clues to the forces that govern that star's internal clock.
A personality test for ads
People leave digital footprints online, and this information could helps marketers personalize ads based on individual personality types.
More Personality News and Personality Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Graham
If former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's case for the death of George Floyd goes to trial, there will be this one, controversial legal principle looming over the proceedings: The reasonable officer. In this episode, we explore the origin of the reasonable officer standard, with the case that sent two Charlotte lawyers on a quest for true objectivity, and changed the face of policing in the US. This episode was produced by Matt Kielty with help from Kelly Prime and Annie McEwen. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.