Does what we experience during our childhood affect our chances of success in the future? How much does where someone grows up affect how successful he or she will be in life? How can a child overcome the constraints of poverty? Studies after study show that early struggles last long into adulthood and can affect job prospects as much as marital happiness. However, one may argue that it is not possible to claim that children are failing because they did not reach out to success and grabbed it. In 2013, a Psychological Science study from Warwick University and Duke University has found that bullying in childhood had long-term negative consequences for health, job prospects and relationships. The most negative outcomes were for children bullying and at the same time victims of it: they were more likely to have less friends, be obese and to leave school without qualification. The study included psychological, verbal and physical bullying and took into account factors such as family stability, and wealth. It concluded that bullying should not be seen as “a harmless rite of passage.” Commenting on the study, Emma-Jane Cross, founder of the anti-bullying charity BeatBullying, told the BBC that the study:
Shines a light on what has been an overlooked subject for society and the economy. The findings demonstrate for the first time just how far-reaching and damaging the consequences of bullying can be.
Thus, it seems a bad experience in our childhood, such as bullying, is more likely to lead to failure later in life. A 2008 study from The Heritage Foundation noted that numerous education reforms in the past few decades in the United States had little or no impact on student achievement. Instead, it showed that stable family structures and strong parental involvement were closely linked to positive educational outcomes such eagerness to study and college completion. Thus, instead of wasting time and money on ineffective education forms, the system should aim at strengthening family structure and should encourage greater parental involvement, in the US. Indeed, many children are raised in poverty, whether in developed industrial countries or in poorer societies. In our Western societies, many mothers have to work multiple jobs for long hours, in order to make ends meet or to advance in their careers. The downside is that they are then too busy and tired to give them the attention they require. As a result, one may claim that our childhood environment, education and the involvement of parents can determine non-cognitive skills and character. These studies, along with many more, point to the facts that our childhood affects our ability to succeed: a happy, wealthy and stable childhood will lead to success, while a troubled one will increase our chances of failure. According to another article from the Annual Review of Psychology, social classes also determine attitudes that people develop towards success. Higher-income families tend to encourage kids to follow their dreams and tend to nurture a caring and hard-working environment. They may give them the tools and support to pursue various interests; to think creatively, to work independently and to take initiatives. Less wealthy families tend to emphasize pride in hardships and let their children figure out their limits on their own. Their children are not made aware of leadership skills in the same ways, and tend to do what they are told without taking risks and maybe even challenge authorities. It seems then that material success in early childhood has a positive influence on success, while poverty-stricken communities and families are less likely to succeed. However, this is highly debatable and poverty does not necessarily mean inability to succeed. Building and supporting a stable and caring home environment is key for children to develop happily and to want to be successful later. Yet again, the definition and interpretation of such an environment is for each of us to determine. This will in no doubt influence young people’s character and non-cognitive skills such as creativity, critical thinking, willingness to take risks and taste for entrepreneurship. In turn, those skills can be powerful tools and drivers of success. What other factors from our childhood would you say affect our future success? What impacts do family structure, parental involvement and educational attainment in our childhood have on our ability to succeed? Do you agree that our childhood can in any way lead us to be successful adults? Or is it all up to luck, right timing, taking risks and grabbing opportunities?