Study Finds that Social Skills May Be as Important as Academic Ones in Kindergarten

I first heard about this on NPR but here's a longer look from PBS.  It's a national study of 700 students, from K to age 20, in four places (including Seattle).  These socio-emotional skills like listening and helping other students were found to show better outcomes nearly two decades later.

Socio-economic skills, as explained by the lead researcher, Damon Jones at Penn State, are "malleable" and can be taught and strengthened.  They controlled for early academic skills, socio-economic status, and behavior (as rated by mothers and teachers).
We found significant associations in all those domains, crime, education, employment, substance use, mental health. For instance, children — for each point on the social competence scale, children were twice as likely to receive a college degree by age 25. There were consistent results for the crime outcomes.
From USA Today
Children with poor social skills in kindergarten are by no means a lost cause, pediatrician Dina Lieser said.

The study provides a hopeful message, because it's possible to improve social skills throughout childhood, said Lieser, chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' council on early childhood, who wasn't involved in the study.
The study is here but it has a paywall.  I'd be interested to know what data SPS supplied.

Objectives. We examined whether kindergarten teachers' ratings of children’s prosocial skills, an indicator of noncognitive ability at school entry, predict key adolescent and adult outcomes. Our goal was to determine unique associations over and above other important child, family, and contextual characteristics.
Methods. Data came from the Fast Track study of low–socioeconomic status neighborhoods in 3 cities and 1 rural setting. We assessed associations between measured outcomes in kindergarten and outcomes 13 to 19 years later (1991–2000). Models included numerous control variables representing characteristics of the child, family, and context, enabling us to explore the unique contributions among predictors.
Results. We found statistically significant associations between measured social-emotional skills in kindergarten and key young adult outcomes across multiple domains of education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health.
Conclusions. A kindergarten measure of social-emotional skills may be useful for assessing whether children are at risk for deficits in noncognitive skills later in life and, thus, help identify those in need of early intervention. These results demonstrate the relevance of noncognitive skills in development for personal and public health outcomes. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print July 16, 2015: e1–e8. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302630)


Ann D said…
The irony of research showing what early childhood educators already know and have been saying... but then the Seattle Preschool Program purports to know a different and better way, with metrics gathering and so on.

Poor babies.
Anonymous said…
Wasn't that the point of kindergarten play? To explore, to learn and to practice social and emotional skills?

Maybe the Ed Reform crowd and the Duncan politicos are so dour about education because they have forgotten to play. Thank the good lord for my kids' K teachers. Both of whom who have recently left the system because they are so disheartened by the spreadsheets and rigid classroom that the "we know best" crowd has forced on today's five-year-olds.

Yes, I wonder how much of the City's Preschool Program's "6-hour academic day" will include play and socializing.
Anonymous said…
Actually social skills are probably more important indicators of success at all grade levels. And the highest order social skill, advanced butt-kissing, is likely the one skill sure to get you the furthest in life.

Anonymous said…
I looks like Seattle supplied some of the participants in the study:

"Participants were recruited from the 4
study sites (3 urban, 1 rural): Durham, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; and central Pennsylvania. "

mirmac1 said…
That's BERK and BERC'S bread and butter in this burg.
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