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Can Addictive Behaviors Be Predicted in Preschool? | TIME

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May 03, 2012

Children’s behavior at age 3 offers some surprising clues about their risk of developing addictive behaviors like problem gambling or drug misuse in their 30s, according to data from an ongoing study of nearly 1,000 people in New Zealand.

The new analysis, which was published in Psychological Science, found that children whose temperament was deemed “undercontrolled” at age three were more than twice as likely as well-adjusted kids to have problems with gambling at age 21 and 32.  About 10% of the children exhibited this type of temperament at that age, which involves a lack of self-control, including rapidly shifting emotions, impulsive and willful behavior and relatively high levels of negative feelings.

The association held true even after controlling for factors like IQ, gender and socioeconomic status. And when these children were assessed as adults, they still rated high on feelings of alienation and continued to express high levels of negative emotion. They also tended to be less conscientious and less socially agreeable than their peers.

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The findings and conclusions in these newsletter materials are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Children's Safety Network.