This behaviour can influence a student's future earning potential
According to research, childhood behaviour can tell us about how individuals will do economically later in life. Source: Shutterstock

Do you want your students to blossom into successful working adults who are financially steady or flushed with cash?

A longitudinal study that spanned 30 years found that inattentive children are more likely to earn lower salaries at age 33 to 35 years. This was done after adjusting for IQ and family adversity.

The authors of the study, which was published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry, noted that “children exhibiting high inattention, aggression-opposition, and low levels of prosocial behaviors could have long-term socioeconomic advantages for those individuals and society”.

The findings are based on samples of 2,850 kindergarten children in Quebec, Canada who were born in 1980 or 1981. Researchers analysed behavioural ratings by kindergarten teachers when the children were aged five or six years against their government tax returns in 2013 to 2015. 

In a press release, Sylvana M. Côté, Associate Professor of Social and Preventative Medicine at the University of Montreal, who co-authored the study, said: “Early behaviours are modifiable, arguably more so than traditional factors associated with earnings, such as IQ and socioeconomic status, making them key targets for early intervention.

“If early behavioural problems are associated with lower earnings, addressing these behaviours is essential to helping children – through screenings and the development of intervention programmes – as early as possible.”

How students and teachers can help inattentive students 

Inattentive children are more likely to earn lower salaries at age 33 to 35 years. Source: Shutterstock

In a 2016 article in The Washington Post, parent Monica Leftwich shared how her then seven-year-old had difficulty focusing in the classroom. 

Leftwich received frequent emails from her daughter’s teacher, documenting her disruptive classroom behaviours such as chatting with friends and moving around the classroom when she was not supposed to, in addition to not putting enough effort into her work.

“I tried everything to get my child to pay attention in class. Light punishments and more harsh punishments, including spankings, taking away screen time, restriction and timeouts. Nothing registered. I got angry because I believed she was deliberately disobeying me. Once, when I asked her to explain her poor performance in class and she responded nonchalantly, I had to step outside my house before I lost my cool,” she wrote. 

After doing more research, Leftwich discovered several things:

  • Parents need to be better listeners to children. Some kids need several conversations to fully express their thoughts and feelings and to explain the motivation behind their actions. 
  • During these conversations, parents need to figure out the common themes and recurring topics brought up by their children.
  • After finding recurring themes in their conversations, Leftwich realised that some of the reasons for her daughter’s inattentiveness include disruptive classmates, boring topics, wanting attention and “being dramatic”. 
  • Leftwich focused on the disruptive behaviour of others; she and her daughter’s teacher moved her daughter’s desk to a more secluded area in the classroom, which resulted in an immediate improvement in her daughter’s behaviour. 

On Edutopia, David Reeves gives these suggestions to help improve the attention span of students in the classroom:

  • Giving students brief breaks for active play
  • Break a task or content into smaller time intervals
  • Remove unnecessary clutter and visual experiences from the classroom

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