Our teachers often hear from parent going out and field trip chaperones and staff from experiential education centers like Cal-Wood and Catalina Island how well behaved and engaged students from Mountain Shadows are in relation to other student groups of the same age.

We beam with pride and say to ourselves, “grace and courtesy!”

An article in the American Journal of Public Health – “Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten social Competence and Future Wellness” validates through longitudinal research what AMI Montessori schools have been doing for over a century.

To quote the authors who: “found statistically significant associations between measured social-emotional skills in kindergarten and key young adult outcomes across multiple domains of education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health…”

Understanding what early characteristics predict future outcomes could be of great value in helping children develop into healthy adults. In recent years, much research has been directed toward understanding non-cognitive traits in children that may increase the likelihood of healthy personal development and eventual adult well-being. For predicting future success in the workplace, levels of cognitive ability measured through IQ or test scores alone are less predictive than measures of educational attainment, which require not just cognitive ability but also non-cognitive characteristics such as self-discipline, academic motivation, and interpersonal skills.

Cognitive skills involve achievement-oriented tasks, such as problem solving, and academic abilities, which are measured by achievement tests; the non-cognitive category covers everything else, such as behavioral characteristics, emotion regulation, attention, self-regulation, and social skills.

Cognitive skills are involved not only in intelligence and achievement, but also in attention, emotion regulation, attitudes, motivation, and the conduct of social relationships.

Noncognitive skills interact with cognitive skills to enable success in school and the workplace. This is most easily seen in an educational setting. Achievement is driven by intellectual ability as well as by the self-regulation, positive attitudes, motivation, and conscientiousness that are required to complete educational milestones. Substantial differences in non-cognitive skills have been found between those who graduate from high school on time and those who complete a general equivalency diploma, as reflected in subsequent adult and economic outcomes. Interpersonal skills are also important for children navigating the social setting, and positive interactions with adults are essential for success in school. Success in school involves both social-emotional and cognitive skills, because social interactions, attention, and self-control affect readiness for learning.

Objectives. We examined whether kindergarten teachers’ ratings of children’s prosocial skills, an indicator of non-cognitive ability at school entry, predict key adolescent and adult outcomes. Our goal was to determine unique associations over and above other important child, family, and contextual characteristics.

Methods. We assessed associations between Measured outcomes in kindergarten and outcomes 13 to 19 years later (1991–2000). Models included numerous control variables representing characteristics of the child, family, and context, enabling us to explore the unique contributions among predictors.

Results. We found statistically significant associations between measured social-emotional skills in kindergarten and key young adult outcomes across multiple domains of education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health.

These results demonstrate the relevance of non-cognitive skills in development for personal and public health outcomes.

(Am J Public Health. 2015;105:2283–2290. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302630)

Why We Formally Teach Grace and Courtesy

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