There’s nothing more formidable than a stubborn child.
When they know their own mind, “no” becomes their favourite word, and you can have a difficult time getting them to do anything without getting a piercing scream in return.
Unfortunately for parents, this kind of behaviour might as well be encouraged.
According to a paper published in the journal Developmental Psychology, rule breaking and general defiance of parents are two of the best predictors of earning a high income as an adult.
The research followed 700 children from around the age of eight to mid-life, using data from the MAGRIP study, which began in 1968.
Children between the ages of eight and 12 were assessed for personality traits like entitlement, defiance, and academic conscientiousness. They were tracked down 40 years later to see how they ended up, and it turns out that the stubborn ones became the educational over-achievers and high-earners.
“Given the nature of our archival data, the possible explanations are rather ad hoc and our exploratory results need to be replicated,” the study reads. “If there are no other omitted third variables, we might assume that students who scored high on this scale might earn a higher income because they are more willing to be more demanding during critical junctures such as when negotiating salaries or raises.”
In other words, the stubborn kids grow up learning how to say “no” and negotiating for what they want. Children who scored low on “agreeableness,” for example, were also shown to earn more.
The authors don’t provide a definite reason. The study also didn’t account for life choices and career paths that affect earning potential.
However, they do speculate over some explanations. One is that stubborn people value competition over their personal relationships, and so want to advance their interests relative to others. Another is that individuals who break rules and stand up to their parents are more willing to stand up for their own interests, leading to higher salaries.
“Student characteristics and behaviours play significant roles in important life outcomes over and above socioeconomic factors and cognitive abilities,” the researchers conclude in the paper.
“We demonstrated that being successful is more than ‘just’ having good cognitive resources and coming from a socially advantaged family and that personality related characteristics and student behaviour measured early in life are important predictors of life outcomes in midlife.”