Is there a correlation between social-emotional learning and criminal activity?

September 29, 2015

According to a 20-year retrospective study published in the July 2015 edition of the American Journal of Public Health, there is evidence that “noncognitive ability in the form of self-control in childhood [is] predictive of adult outcomes ranging from physical health to crime to substance abuse.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the study, reported some key findings in their research brief:

For every one-point increase on the 5-point scale in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she was:

  • Twice as likely to attain a college degree in early adulthood;
  • 54% more likely to earn a high school diploma; and
  • 46% more likely to have a full-time job at the age of 25.

For every one-point decrease in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she had:

  • 67% higher chance of having been arrested by early adulthood;
  • 82% higher rate of recent marijuana usage; and
  • 82% higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing.

Special thanks to Sarah Garrity, Ed.D., for her help in answering this question. Sarah is a P3SD Salon member and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Child and Family Development at San Diego State University.