The researchers then tracked these children for two decades. They recorded positive and negative milestones such as whether or not they graduated from high school, obtained university degrees or developed a criminal record or substance abuse problems.
The result: children who had scored high in social and emotional skills in the first years of school were found to have better outcomes as young adults than children who scored lower.
This study shows there is a clear link between good social and emotional skills and success later in life and these skills can be seen very early on.
As children get older, there's less emphasis on social and emotional skills. Parents and teachers may think children are just the way they are and they'll sort it out as they grow. That doesn’t always happen.
Having children focus their time and energy on reading and maths and playing a musical instrument or excelling on the sports field are important.
But it is also vital to pay attention to building skills like sharing, having empathy for others, co-operating and being kind and nice. These skills will affect how they fare in life.
The key message is that parents, teachers and mentors can make a difference and influence the social and emotional skills that help lead to a fulfilling life, and it is a good idea to start as early as possible.
Research by Pennsylvania State University and Duke University funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published online in the July 2015 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.