Being able to control your emotions is essential for career success - and it all starts in childhood

Sarah Spickernell
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Self-control is formed early in life (Source: Getty)

Everyone knows being unable to manage your emotions won't go down too well at work, but having low self-control can actually ruin your career prospects way down the line - and it all starts in early childhood.

A clear link has been uncovered between self-control and employment later in life by researchers at Scotland's University of Stirling in a new study of 15,000 British children.

In fact, those who had self-control as children spend 40 per cent less time on average in unemployment than those who were unable to control their behaviour.

A lack of self-control was characterised by inability to pay attention or persist with difficult tasks, and a tendency towards impulsive behaviours.

"The study highlights the importance of early life self-control as a powerful predictor of job prospects in adulthood," said lead researcher Michael Daly.

There are many childhood circumstances that can influence success in later in life, such as family background, social class and intelligence. Daly and his team adjusted the results for all these points, to make sure they weren't influencing the outcome.

So what exactly is it about a lack of self-control that's so damaging to a career? According to the researchers, two of the main reasons are a heightened vulnerability to unemployment-related stress, and a greater risk of falling into unhealthy lifestyle habits such as irregular sleeping patterns.

"Developing greater self-control in childhood, when the capacity for self-control is particularly malleable, could help buffer against unemployment during recessions and bring long-term benefits to society, through increased employment rates and productivity,” Daly explained.

The trend was particularly clear during the 1980s recession, when those with low childhood self-control went through a pronounced spike in joblessness compared to their peers.

And these people did not just lose their jobs more easily – they found it more difficult to get new ones when the economy started to recover according to the research, published in the journal Psychological Science.

Daly believes those without self-control are “particularly vulnerable” to unemployment during times of economic downturn later in life.

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