Kindergarten attention skills can predict later work-oriented behavior as adults

Do you remember the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? On the first page, Robert Fulghum wrote, “The Kindergarten Credo is not kid stuff. It is not simple. It is elemental.” The 65-year-old goes on to write how the basic skills he learned in Kindergarten hold up equally well under the complexities of adulthood.

Recently, research led by Dr. Linda Pagani at the University of Montreal, supports the notion that the skills learned in Kindergarten such as sharing, working independently or in a group, and turn taking, will later translate into the adult workplace.

Pagani worked with elementary school teachers who observed and measured the attention skills of more than 1,000 Kindergarteners who were considered at-risk. Observing those same children through sixth grade, teachers rated their self-control, self-confidence, how well they worked in a group and independently, as well as their ability to follow directions and rules.

The results showed three groups of children: those with high, medium, and low classroom engagement. The research team found that boys, aggressive children, and children with lower cognitive skills in Kindergarten were much more likely to belong to the low trajectory.

“For children, the classroom is the workplace, and this is why productive, task-oriented behavior in that context later translates to the labor market,” Pagani said in a press release. “Children who are more likely to work autonomously and harmoniously with fellow classmates, with good self-control and confidence, and who follow directions and rules are more likely to continue such productive behaviors into the adult workplace. In child psychology, we call this the developmental evolution of work-oriented skills, from childhood to adulthood.”

The full journal article can be found in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

At ABC Music & Me, we look forward to the next research phase where Pagani and the team investigate how the classroom environment impacts children’s attention spans.

Research in Action: ABC Music & Me

In ABC Music & Me, we use music and movement to teach young children language and literacy as well as important school-readiness skills, such as listening skills and self-regulation. In fact, music has proven results in helping children build listening skills and develop self-control. For information about using ABC Music & Me in your classroom, school, or district, email us at


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