Young children who are able to pay attention and persist with a task have a 50 percent greater chance of completing college, according to a new study from Oregon State University.
The study tracked educational outcomes of a group of 430 children over two decades, beginning at age 4. Analysis of the data collected showed that social and behavioral skills, such as paying attention, following directions and completing a task may be more crucial than academic abilities.
Lead author Megan McClelland explained, “Our study shows that the biggest predictor of college completion wasn’t math or reading skills, but whether or not they were able to pay attention and finish tasks at age 4.”
Parents of preschool children were asked to rate their children on items such as “plays with a single toy for long periods of time” or “child gives up easily when difficulties are encountered.” Reading and math skills were assessed at age 7 using standardized assessments. At age 21, the same group was tested again for reading and math skills.
Surprisingly, achievement in reading and math did not significantly predict whether or not the students completed college. Instead, researchers found that children who were rated higher by their parents on attention span and persistence at age 4 had nearly 50 percent greater odds of getting a bachelor’s degree by age 25.
McClelland also pointed out that interventions aimed at increasing young children’s self-control abilities have repeatedly shown to help boost “self-regulation,” or a child’s ability to listen, pay attention, follow through on a task and remember instructions.
This work strengthens the body of evidence supporting Davis® methodology, which begins with providing tools that enable students to focus attention and regulate their energy level. Very young children learn Davis Focusing and Dial Setting exercises; older children may benefit from the more sophisticated Davis Orientation training.
More information about this study:
- Relations between preschool attention span-persistence and age 25 educational outcomes, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Available online 3 August 2012:Megan M. McClelland, Alan C. Acock, Andrea Piccinin, Sally Ann Rhea, Michael C. Stallings
- Preschool children who are able to pay attention more likely to finish college, Oregon State University (archived)