Behaviour in school life predicts life success more than the family background, broad traits, and cognitive ability

Psychologists from the University of Tübingen, University of Houston and University of Illinois in a longitudinal study, spread over a 50-year timespan (using a large U.S. representative sample of high school students) investigated the role of student characteristics and behaviors. The results of the study were published in a recent issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. They addressed the question of whether behaviors in school have any long-lasting effects for one‘s later life. They investigated the role of being a responsible student, interest in school, writing skills, and reading skills in predicting educational attainment, occupational prestige, and income 11 years (N = 81,912) and 50 years (N = 1,952) after high school. The sample was controlled for parental socioeconomic status, IQ, and broad personality traits in all analyses. The findings indicated that the student characteristics and behaviors in adolescence predicted later educational and occupational success above and beyond parental socioeconomic status, IQ, and broad personality traits. Having higher interest in school was related to higher educational attainment at years 11 and 50, higher occupational prestige at year 11, and higher income at year 50. Higher levels of being a responsible student were related to higher educational attainment and higher occupational prestige at years 11 and 50. It highlights the potential importance of what students do in school and how they react to their experiences during that time. It also highlights the possibility that things that happen in specific periods of one’s life may play out in ways far more significant than we expect.

Source: PsycINFO