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Good Housekeeping
Jennifer Chan, Assistant Managing Editor
May 01, 2012

Addictive Behavior May Be Predicted as Early as Preschool

Children who show signs of impulsiveness and negative emotions may have a greater risk of developing an addiction. By Jennifer Chan

As early as preschool, children often exhibit behaviors that give parents a glimpse of what they will be like when they grow up. According to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, this extends to determining their risk of developing addictive behavior

In a study of almost 1,000 people in New Zealand, researchers tracked down their participants’ psychological, intellectual, and economic data from birth to age 32. Results revealed that children who manifest signs of being "undercontrolled"--that is, they show lack of control, signs of impulsiveness, and an abundance of negative emotions--were more than twice as likely to develop gambling problems at age 21 and 32 than their counterparts.

Why are children who exhibit this temperament more likely to succumb to addictive behavior? "One possibility is that there are genetic factors that are related to both low self-control and gambling or problem gambling," says Wendy Slutske, professor of psychological science at the University of Missouri and lead author of the study. "Another possibility is that children who are low in emotional and behavioral control tend to associate with other undercontrolled children who introduce them to gambling activities."

The study is groundbreaking, providing people with more insight into how addiction develops. However, the results are not 100-percent conclusive. If your children show signs of an undercontrolled temperament, it doesn’t automatically mean that they will go on to have gambling or drug addictions. Give them proper guidance and teach them how to control their impulses while they're young so that they will grow into responsible adults in the future.


(Photo by Brooke Bocast via Flickr Creative Commons; used for illustrative purposes only)

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Jennifer Chan
Assistant Managing Editor
Jennifer Chan was a contributing writer for Female Network for two years before formally joining the team as a staff writer in July 2012... Read more...
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