Not so bad, after all

November 14, 2007

For parents who worry that a child's tantrums or other disruptive activity portends academic failure, there's reason for hope. Two new studies show that children who enter kindergarten behaving badly can turn out to be successful after all.

One study by an international team of researchers examined indicators of social and intellectual development in more than 16,000 children and found that those who had interrupted the teacher, ignored or resisted instructions and started fights in kindergarten were doing as well in reading and math by fifth grade as their better-behaved peers.

Another study found that the brains of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder develop more slowly than those of other children, but otherwise follow a normal pattern. That supports the idea that ADHD, which affects up to 5 percent of school-age children, is caused by developmental delay rather than a brain deficiency. It also helps explain why many children are no longer diagnosed with the disorder by the time they reach middle school or high school.

Some researchers rightly remind parents and teachers that young children with emotional or behavioral problems can still benefit from extra help, but the good news is that those problems don't have to stymie school success. In fact, math scores of 5- and 6-year-olds were found to be better predictors of school success in fifth grade than early behavior patterns.

So the next time young Johnny or Jane starts acting up or acting out, don't despair. Just get out the addition and subtraction tables.

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