Self-control key to happier life

April 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- New Zealand’s first symposium exploring how self-control in young children leads to better outcomes in later life is being hosted at the Wellington campus by Massey University’s School of Public Health on Monday. It is being held in association with the National Centre for Lifecourse Research and the University of Otago.

Head of School Associate Professor Cindy Kiro, a former Children’s Commissioner, says the symposium would bring together some of the most prominent scientists, health researchers, community providers and policy makers in New Zealand.

“Making sure that science informs policy and that we listen to communities is important when, as a country, we are creating significant policies like Whanau Ora and those for health, economic development and addressing the prevention of crime,” Dr. Kiro says.

It is a stance supported by fellow symposium keynote speaker, National Center for Lifecourse Research co-director Professor Richie Poulton. He leads the Dunedin Longitudinal study, which has studied the social and physical development of a group of 1000 people from their birth in 1972-73, to the age of 32.

“If we can do the right things to promote among children when they are young, we will significantly improve their chances of economic wellbeing, good health and lower participation in crime when they are adults,” Professor Poulton says.

His co-director at the centre, Professor Terrie Moffitt, of Duke University, King’s College London is the other keynote speaker.

A roundtable debate featuring politicians and policymakers will also be held. Participants include Disability Issues Minister Tariana Turia, who is also Associate Minister of Social Development and Associate Minister of Health, Labour Party social policy spokeswoman and deputy leader Annette King, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman.

Dr. Kiro says the news has been full of stories recently about out-of-control teens. “But we know there are things we can do that will help our young people learn control and have better long-term outcomes in later life,” she says. “What we want to do at this symposium is to look at the entire package of factors affecting children, including poverty, health living conditions and stress as well as self-control and make sure we’re doing the best we can for our young to make sure they get the best out of life later on.”

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