Please note this was posted for April 1, 2015.
I came across a recently released study in Child Psychology and Psychiatry Review from Cambridge University that blew my mind. And not many things blow my mind since I have four kids 4 years and under since my mind’s already in pieces all over the tri-state area.
This was a longitudinal study (which means they studied participants for a long period of time, this study was done over 30 years) following the lives of 564 people from birth to their 30th birthday. Researchers met with the baby’s parents initially and recorded habits, beliefs, values, etc. of the family and then met with the children as they grew and came of age.
Researchers and participants met yearly, and the goal was to determine what key characteristics families had in common that correlated strongly with adult success. They defined adult success (this was their definition, mind you,) as having long-term fulfilling relationships, stable careers, reliable income (national average and up) with regular contributions to their retirement funds, and a minimum of a career qualification or college education.
After following the participants for 30 years and closely studying those deemed “successful” by the above definition, they found 4 strong key predictors of success. Out of 313 participants in the study who met their criteria for success, their early home life had the following four things in common.
1. Lack of rules and boundaries.
From the participants’ early years, many parents told researchers they didn’t believe in having “house rules” or other rigid restrictions on the kids. About four out of five kids in the study who were deemed “successful adults” actually told researchers they were allowed to do whatever they wanted from an early age. This included staying up late on school nights, watching as much of whatever kind of TV or movies they wanted (because there weren’t iPads when we were kids, ha), and even being treated by their parents as equals. Which you know what I think about that, read my post on be the parent, not the friend.
47 of the 313 participants classified as “successful adults” called their parents by their first names for as long as they can remember. 36 of those 47 went on to become executives or run their own businesses. So if you want to be your own boss, call your parents by their first names…
2. Parents were against chores and pro-allowance.
Of the 313 families that produced “successful adults” more than 70% did not require their kids to do any household chores (clearly they hadn’t read my post on what 2 & 3 year olds can actually do on their own). Aside from the basic things kids learn to do for themselves, most weren’t asked to do laundry, the dishes, or even straightening their room.
One “successful” participant said of his childhood, “My mom just did everything. She said it was her pleasure to give me a carefree childhood, and I agree. Being free from obligations and burdens at a young age helped me really be ready for them when I got older.” …I can’t even…
Of the 313 successful adults, the overwhelming majority were given a weekly allowance above that of their peers. When the children were asked about their allowance, spending habits, and how it compared to their friends at school, many said they got twice or even three times as much. And over half were not required by their parents to save or budget a penny.
3. There were no rules regarding behavior between siblings.
I found this part interesting because I have 4 kids. Of those who were deemed successful 69% had 2 or more siblings. Of that, over half reported strained sibling relationships with little intervention from parents. At the age of 5, one participant told the researcher, “My big brother is a bully and sometimes locks me out of the house or scares me at night. Mom just tells me to toughen up.”
Surprisingly, many of the other “successful adults” told similar stories throughout the years they were interviewed. They said that there were few, if any, “house rules” about hitting, kicking, fighting, stealing, or respecting others’ things. A handful reported being physically beaten up numerous times throughout their formative years. Then, if you can believe it, when asked as adults how this lack of intervention affected them, they said they thought it was good preparation for the future. (See my post on the effects of rejection in children).
4. Parents purposely downplayed academic performance.
We all know success isn’t necessarily dependent upon your education, and this study supports this though from a different angle. Many parents of the successful adults actually let children out of many academic requirements, didn’t help or require them to do their homework, and were comparatively relaxed about school attendance.
Instead of encouraging their kids to meet their deadlines, try their hardest (my personal thoughts on perseverance and effort), and make long-term decisions, parents of the study’s successful adults let their kids to do as little as they could to get by. One participant (a current CEO of a medium sized business) said his mother would tell him it didn’t matter if he skipped assignments and got C’s or D’s as long as he was having fun. High school only happens once, after all. For.the.love…
So according to Cambridge…
Basically this study shows the strongest predictors of success in adults being lack of boundaries, responsibilities, and behavior expectations from a young age. Who would have thought? I guess I need to keep my day job and shut down the blog’s archives since I’ve got my kids clearly on the wrong path. And, honestly, I’m not quite sure who exactly they were studying, but it sure surprised me. Read the full research report here.
What do you think?