Are Hostile Kids Destined for Unemployment?

A study spanning nearly three decades finds a significant link between children's aggression and their ability, as adults, to hold a job. Fortunately, good social skills and supportive parents seem to offset the problem.

By Tanya Zimbardo, published on January 1, 2001 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Aggressive children may be destined for later long-term
unemployment. In a study that began in 1968, researchers at the
University of Jyvaskyla in Finland examined about 300 participants at
ages 8, 14, 27 and 36. They looked for aggressive behaviors like hurting
other children, kicking objects when angry, or attacking others without

Their results, published in the International Journal of Behavioral
Development, suggest that children with low self-control of
emotion -- especially aggression -- were significantly more prone to
long-term unemployment. Children with behavioral inhibitions -- such as
passive and anxious behaviors -- were also indirectly linked to
unemployment as they lacked the preliminary initiative needed for school
success. And while unemployment rates were high in Finland during the
last data collection, jobless participants who were aggressive as
children were less likely to have a job two years later than their
non-aggressive counterparts.

Ongoing unemployment can have serious psychological consequences,
including depression, anxiety and stress. But lead researcher Lea
Pulkkinen, Ph.D., a Jyvaskyla psychology professor, does have encouraging
news for parents: Aggressive children with good social skills and
child-centered parents were significantly less likely to be unemployed
for more than two years as adults.