Over the years, as we have been studying, and attempting to utilize the things we know about social capital, the message has been framed from a simple foundation - Build more relationships, and positive life outcomes (health, happiness, achievement, advancement, even longevity) increase. This sounds easy enough, but as we look deeper, there are more things to consider. That is, what are the antecedent social skills that lead to greater social capital? Or, how important are academic skills in building relationships?
A new study, conducted by Penn State University, looked at 750 kids over the past 20 years, and helps us to better understand these antecedent social skills. This study, just published in the "American Journal of Public Health," found that kindergarteners with strong social and emotional skills were more likely than their peers to succeed in academic and professional roles 20 years later. They found that things like the ability to cooperate, resolving conflicts, listening to others point of view, and giving suggestions without appearing bossy were all actions or skills that seemed to be prerequisite to success down the road of life. Researchers found that these kids with greater "social competence" we're more likely than peers to graduate from high school, earn a college degree, and hold a full time job. Even more powerful, the kids with weaker social skills were more likely to develop substance abuse problems, be unemployed, smoke pot, get arrested, or receive public assistance.
Further, they found that good social skills appear to be more important than academic ability in building relationships that lead to more tangible life success. Yet, as a society we seem hell bent on promoting academic and competitive skills as the key to better life outcomes.
So, no matter where you find yourself, it would do you, and the folks you support (or your children) well to examine, understand, and practice the things that help us get along with others. Cooperation and collaboration skills continue to be more important than competitive skills for a successful life.