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Preschoolers who pay attention more likely to finish college, study says

Preschool students who pay attention and persist with a task have a 50 percent greater chance of graduating from college, according to an Oregon State University study released in August 2012. In this photo, children gather for reading time at a Los Angeles preschool.
August 20, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new study by Oregon State University researchers found that young children who are able to pay attention and persist with a task have a 50 percent greater chance of graduating from college.

Psychologist Stephanie Marcy of Children's Hospital Los Angeles says the big push to teach academics in preschool can hurt a child's chances of getting a higher degree.

"Social skills in preschool are probably the more important skill than the academics," Marcy said.

Surprisingly, achievement in reading or math was not a significant predictor of whether a child completed college, the study said. Instead, researchers found parents who rated their kids on having a good attention span and persistence at age 4 had a 50 percent greater chance of getting a bachelor's degree by age 25.

Attention and persistence skills can be taught. Experts say parents need to slow down and stop rushing and give kids time to complete a task. Marcy says toys like blocks and Play-Doh challenge kids, unlike electronic toys that often offer instant gratification.

"What you really want is for them to have a good time and to think that learning stuff is great fun," said Dr. Anita Britt also of Children's Hospital Los Angeles.


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