A research article in the journal Child Development analyzed 33 studies and found that kids who were taught social and emotional skills had an average 11 percentile-point gain in their academic performance compared to children who did not receive such instruction. This gain was found over a six month span. The courses emphasized self-control, responsible decision-making, and how to develop and maintain positive relationships with peers and adults. The study found that these programs help kids form bonds with their teachers and may affect how attached they are to their schools. These factors are positively related with student achievement. Teacher-led programs that encouraged student involvement and role-playing were most successful.
The study’s authors indicate that this type of instruction might affect the physiology of the brain; in particular children’s executive cognitive functions that help them control their impulses and actions. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, we don’t have the luxury of returning to grade school to start over with our social educations, but as adults we do have the wherewithal to consciously choose how to act, and eventually our brains will develop accordingly.
So if you have little cubs running around the den try to remember that the most successful tigers are those that have learned to understand and cooperate with their fellow felines.