Everyone who has lived through high school knows it can be a roller coaster with plenty of ups and downs. However, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association, if you can make it in high school you can make it in the world.
The research, from the University of Tübingen, was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and states that being a conscientious high school student and maintaining an interest in school can impact success for decades to come.
More specifically, good reading and writing skills could be predictors of educational and work-related achievement throughout life. This was shown irrespective of IQ, parental socioeconomic status and other personality considerations.
The authors analyzed data from the American Institutes for Research from 346,660 United States high school students in 1960, following up with 81,912 of those students 11 years later and finally 1,952 of them 50 years later.
“Educational researchers, political scientists and economists are increasingly interested in the traits and skills that parents, teachers and schools should foster in children to enhance chances of success later in life,” said lead author Marion Spengler, PhD, in a story with the American Psychological Association. “Our research found that specific behaviors in high school have long-lasting effects for one’s later life.”
The original high school phase of the research measured student behaviors, attitudes, personality traits, cognitive abilities, economic status and other demographics. Additional phases of the research reviewed educational achievement, income and occupational stature.
Findings show that having an interest in school and having fewer issues with reading and writing were significantly associated with greater educational success and finding better, high-paying jobs in 11 and 50 years after high school. After 50 years it was also associated with having a higher income.
Even when researchers controlled for parental socioeconomic status, cognitive ability and other personality traits, the same results were observed.
“Student characteristics and behaviors were rewarded in high school and led to higher educational attainment, which in turn was related to greater occupational prestige and income later in life,” she said. “This study highlights the possibility that certain behaviors at crucial periods could have long-term consequences for a person’s life.”
While Spengler noted in the APA interview that the findings weren’t surprising, she did point out that it was interesting how reliable specific behaviors are at being able to predict later success. The data additionally suggests that the overall educational achievement could have the greatest effect.