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Study shows childhood ‘self control’ key to positive futures

13 April 2017

Study shows childhood ‘self control’ key to positive futures

Self-control in early childhood is key to predicting positive outcomes later in life, according to a leading academic.

Professor Richie Poulton, Director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, said self-control was fundamental for building happy, healthy futures.

He and his team at Otago University were recently awarded The Prime Minister’s 2016 Science Award for their work on the Dunedin study.

Researchers were awarded $500,000 for New Zealand's most valuable science prize.

The 40 year study followed lives of more than 1,000 people from birth, with findings turned into a four-part television documentary series called, Why Am I?.

Research revealed children with the ability to control strong emotions in challenging situations were more likely to succeed, be better parents and stay out of trouble with the law.

“It’s just such an important skill for the 21st century, you need to be able to keep emotions in check and deal with the task at hand. This is something that can be taught, but is best introduced at an early age,” Mr Poulton said.

“You can start to see the difference in children around the age of three; those who need a boost in self control will be fidgety, easily distracted and find it hard to concentrate.”

New Zealand’s largest in-home childcare provider PORSE, understands the importance of brain development, especially in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.
PORSE General Manager Kerry Henderson says understanding research like the Dunedin study is vital to creating a learning environment that will set children on the right path for their future.

“We always seek to better understand how the brain wires and fires in the early years so we can build our curriculum, training and support systems to ensure we are providing the very best care and education,” she said.

“Using these expert findings we can introduce new, positive steps to make a big difference to the development of our young ones.

“All PORSE educators are part of the vision to bring lessons from scientific studies such as this one to life in the way we welcome, relate to, support and communicate with each child and family.”

Infancy is a time when secure attachment relationships are formed. PORSE educators interact with children in a caring, committed and sensitively responsive way, to aid positive brain development.

Mr Poulton said a programme offering warm, nurturing and stimulating environments that support overall wellbeing for both child and family can only be positive.

“The first thing a child does when it’s born is reach out to the adults in their environment, if they don't respond appropriately, if the child reaches out and the response is adverse that can have an effect on the way that part of their brain forms,” he said.

“Parents and educators can impact on the quality of brain development in those first years of life, and set them up on a good neurodevelopmental pathway.”

If you want to learn more about joining PORSE to raise little minds at home or want your child raised in a warm, nurturing and stimulating environment contact us today on 0800 023 456 or


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