Ask an adult, especially if they’re struggling in life, what caused them to end up the way they did, and they might cite certain factors from their childhood, like having a mother that was too cold.

The problem here, of course, is that memories change over time, and narratives about the past develop to fit one’s current situation.

My guests today work on the kind of research that corrects this problem to figure out how aspects of childhood truly affect adulthood, by studying humans from the time they’re babies through middle age and beyond. Their names are Jay Belsky and Terrie Moffitt, and they’re professors of human development, and two of the four contributors to The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life. To begin our conversation, Jay and Terrie discuss the longitudinal studies they and their colleagues have used to track people over decades of their lives, and how aggressiveness and shyness in childhood end up impacting adulthood. We then discuss the limitations of the famous marshmallow experiment, and what these more expansive longitudinal studies have shown about the importance of self-control in achieving a successful adulthood. We unpack whether the negative outcomes associated with being bullied in childhood are inevitable, who’s most likely to become a bully, and who’s most likely to be bullied (which as it turns out, isn’t a matter of being fat or wearing glasses). We discuss how children who act out in childhood, but avoid making certain mistakes in adolescence, can still turn out okay, and why you probably shouldn’t worry about children who were good kids, but get into a little trouble in their teen years. We also dig into the impact that childcare has on kids, and the role that genes play in development. We end our conversation with some allowance-related ideas for cultivating greater self-control in your kids. 

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Show Highlights

Does childhood temperament influence personality later in life?When and how should parents intervene with perceived problems in their children?Self-control and the famous marshmallow testHow mistakes in adolescence impact adulthood Who’s more likely to be bullied? What about the ones doing the bullying?What about daycare? Does it impact later life at all?Are there any biological/genetic determinants for crime? Are there any ideas about how the pandemic is going to impact childhoods right now?Concrete ideas for building self-control in kids 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Dandelion Children vs. Orchid ChildrenThe Causes and Cures of Childhood AnxietyBuilding Your Children’s ResiliencyAoM series on overprotective parentingStanford marshmallow testYour Son Isn’t Lazy — How to Empower Boys to SucceedTriumphs of ExperienceHow to Plan and Lead a Weekly Family MeetingLove Is All You Need


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