Disobedient, Rule-Breaking Kids Might End Up Earning More, Study Says


Mixed news, parents of disobedient children: A child who ignores your every command might be annoying now, but the behavioral pattern may indicate their ability to one day buy you a beach house. If it doesn't really seem worth it, at least you'll have a place to escape them eventually.

A study published in the journal Developmental Psychology suggested children who tend to disregard rules at age 12 were making more money 40 years down the line compared to their more obedient peers. Why's that?

Read more: New Research Shows the Rich Are Living Longer and Longer Than the Poor

Kids who break rules have a leg up on kids who are obedient during the formative years and further down the line in their careers. "Students with high rule-breaking and defiance of parental authority might be more competitive in the school context and more visible in interactions in the classroom," the study said. Kids who break rules have a leg up on kids who don't.

The first wave of the study assessed a group of nearly 3,000 12-year-olds in Luxembourg, starting in 1968, according to IFL Science. It took into account the students' families, their parents' socioeconomic bracket, their intelligence and the way they conducted themselves at school, which also involved feedback from their teachers.

In 2008, a second wave of the study checked in on 745 of the original participants, and found that "rule-breaking and defiance of parental authority was the best noncognitive predictor of higher income after accounting for the influence of IQ, parental SES and educational attainment."

The study proposed these students might be "more willing to be more demanding during critical junctures." They might be more aggressive during salary negotiations, for example, and more likely to prioritize their desires over others'. It also said those "who scored low on agreeableness were also shown to earn more money," and these kids might turn into adults who are more comfortable pursuing their goals by "unethical" means.

So the tiny terrors might be awful now, but give them a few decades and they'll possibly still be awful, but with a bunch of money to throw around, which may or may not exacerbate the problem behavior. If it's any comfort, the diligent, studious kids also tended to enjoy career success down the line, the study found.