Kids with low self-control were twice as likely to smoke as adults compared to their more self-controlled peers, finds a new study.
The study found that children with low self-control by age 10 or 11 were more likely to take up smoking in adolescence and had substantially higher rates of smoking as adults, even decades later at age 55.
"We found that low self-control, measured early in life before smoking is initiated, predicts a substantially raised risk of smoking throughout adulthood," said Michael Daly, behavioural scientist at University of Stirling in Britain. Additionally, children who lacked self-control tended to go on to smoke more cigarettes and had greater difficulty in quitting smoking.
They examined alternative explanations like differences in parental smoking, intelligence, and social class. Self-control varies widely between children. The characteristics of those with low (versus high) self-control in this study were identified using teacher-ratings and included poor attention, lack of persistence and impulsive behaviour.
Previous studies have indicated that raising a child with high self-control is likely to improve school grades, employment prospects, quality of relationships and mental and physical health.
Adding 'not smoking' to that already formidable list may increase health and other benefits that non-smokers enjoy, the researchers noted. The study called for action to support these young people to increase their life chances.
"Though many efforts focus exclusively on educating children about the dangers of smoking, a complementary approach -- one which increases general self-control -- could have lifelong health benefits," Daly suggested in the paper appearing in the journal Health Psychology.