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
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
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 behaviors 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
behavior measured early in life are important predictors of life
outcomes in midlife.”