A child's first years have a major impact on adult life
Predictions about a child’s future, including whether they will end up in jail or on welfare, can be made about children as young as three years old, according to new research.
The research based on New Zealand data revealed “high cost” adults could be identified from the age of three years old from an assessment of their brain health. Factors taken into account included their socioeconomic background, experience of maltreatment, IQ and self-control.
Undertaken at Duke University, North Carolina, the research found 20 per cent of the 1000 children studied from birth to 11 years old accounted for the majority share of services considered including criminal convictions, welfare benefits or cigarettes smoked.
The study also found many individuals were heavy users of multiple services, with 22 per cent of the cohort accounting for 81 per cent of criminal convictions, 36 per cent of injury insurance claims, 40 per cent of excess obese kilograms and 66 per cent of welfare benefits.
In an article in The Guardian
newspaper, co-author of the research Terrie Moffatt said the people who became the “high cost” members of society “weren’t very well prepared as pre-schoolers for making their way into the modern, fast-paced, higher technical, education-dependant job markets”.
The report suggested that the importance of childhood risks for poor adult outcomes has generally been underestimated.
“It is not news . . . . that some individuals use more than their share of services,” the report said. “What is new is that individuals feature in multiple service sectors and they can be identified as children with reasonable accuracy.”
The report found the most costly adults in the cohort “started the race of life from a starting block somewhere behind the rest, and while carrying a heavy handicap in brain health.
The report said improving the effects of childhood disadvantage was an important aim and achieving this through early-years support for families and children could benefit all members of a society.