Psychologists share what has been learned from long-term studies of human development
Everyone has an opinion on what makes people, especially troublemakers, who they are. Bad parents, bad genes, bad company, bad luck, bad choices – choose your poison.
Decades ago, four psychologists decided to study how people develop or change over a long period. Instead of embarking on a seemingly endless academic race on “nature versus care,” they examined how children truly thrive over years and decades. Jay Belsky, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie Moffitt and Richie Poulton describe the exciting findings of their research in The Origins of You.
Development researchers recognize that many personal and social factors are intertwined throughout life. For example, no single factor can explain why one person leads a criminal life and the other does well in college. Life events and random events take children in different directions, making different outcomes more or less likely, but never dictating outcomes, cited by the authors.
Only prospective studies can begin to shed light on the attractive paths of young people to become their adults. Much of The Origins of You is involved in a project now run by Caspi, Moffitt and Poulton that examined around 1,000 New Zealanders in the city of Dunedin from birth to 38 (data up to 45 years old will be tracked by Brevity). The book also focuses on a study initiated by Moffitt and Caspi that looked at over 1,000 pairs of British twins, aged 5 to 18, as well as another study involving Belsky and including around 1,300 children in the United States. the few who have evaluated a range of psychological and physical interventions from childhood through adolescence and beyond.
A fascinating finding from these studies suggests that only certain childhood behaviors influence the personality and behavior of adolescents. Dunedin children classified as “uncontrolled”, irritable and unresponsive by the age of 3 are generally aggressive and extremely dangerous to others by the age of 18. These two groups represent only 18% of the Dunedin sample.
Children play an active role in shaping their social world and are likely to explain, to a large extent, why these particular childhood behaviors are closely related to the later personality of the perpetrator. For example, long-term data from Dunedin shows that uncontrolled children anger parents, peers and teachers. A vicious cycle of rejection of others took place where uncontrolled youth never had the opportunity to acquire social skills and self-control. In contrast, restricted children avoid the opportunity to make friends in new situations and to excel academically or socially in school. At an early age, these children have no idea how to influence or guide others.
Of the remaining 82% of young people in Dunedin, researchers found only weak relationships between behavior at age 3 – something sociable and confident or intended but ready to interact with others – and personality 15 years have passed. In these cases, children are able to bond with adults and peers throughout their childhood, regardless of their behavior.
Uncontrolled 3-year-olds have the worst expectations later in life. These people have unstable and unstable family relationships, friends, romantic partners and co-workers at age 21. Men in this group are particularly susceptible to gambling problems at age 32.
Other results from the three studies cover many lands. Note the following: Good or bad parenting predicts how girls, but not boys, relate to their own 3-year-olds to adulthood. Regular use of marijuana from adolescence is far more harmful to mental health than physical. When physical violence increases during childhood and other difficulties, people are more likely to experience rapid declines in many biological age marks – including immune, kidney, and heart function – as they turn 20. and in poor health at 38.
Encouragingly, the authors acknowledge that the science of human development is not advanced enough to say anything about how to raise children. Unfortunately, the writers offer a little insight into their personal origins and how they did what they did. Despite this gap and the inability of these achievements to address developments in non-Western cultures, after finishing the book, I must have wondered what would happen when these people, persecuted from childhood, entered the second half of their life.