Study Says Disobedient Kids Earn More as Adults

It’s normal to look for the bright side of a frustrating parenting issue. If little Johnny can’t get to sleep at night, some might suggest that maybe his brain is just too busy – he could even be gifted.

Your little one is bossing around his friends during play dates? It’s possible that he’s just a natural born leader.

Some of these anecdotes may hold true but other times they seem less likely.

Parents looking for the upside to their son or daughter’s disobedient nature, though, might actually have something legitimate to point to thanks to one 2015 study that recently resurfaced on some websites and caught our attention.

The research, published in Developmental Psychology, tracked data on 745 people in Luxembourg from the age of 12 to 52 and found that the children who defied authority went on to have higher incomes as adults.

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The researchers found that “rule breaking and defiance of parental authority” was the best non-cognitive predictor of having a higher income after taking into account IQ, parental socioeconomic status and educational attainment, Yahoo Parenting reports.

Why might that be? The people involved in the study offered theories including that those who defy authority might be more aggressive about negotiating a higher salary or asking for a raise, Yahoo reports.

It’s only one small study, of course, but it’s probably cause for some parents to breathe a sigh of relief that the same traits that get their child in trouble now might help them find success in the future.

The suggestion that disobedience in childhood could have a positive association later in life seems to ruffle some feathers, though. The Yahoo story stirred up more than 500 comments, many of which criticized the study or suggested it was a way of promoting “bratty” kids.

“I hope no kids read this because then they’ll think that no matter what they do or how they act, they’ll still get a lot of money,” Nick wrote. “Also, I don’t agree with this article either because if a child isn’t taught boundaries, or self control or anything then they might ‘make more’ but have a lot of other problems.”

Another reader, Momof3, wrote that despite the study, “I still say no thank you to bratty defiant children.”

It’s silly to think that any parent would read this study and suddenly become complacent about their child’s rule-breaking behaviors. There also might be a difference between the study’s definition of “disobedient” and what many are assuming to mean “bratty.” As another commenter points out, positive attributes in life – such as persistence and a willingness to challenge authority – also come into play in a discussion of obedience.

“Not surprised at all. One of the most difficult things about being a parent is that many of the behaviors that we try to stifle in our children are the same ones that will make them successful as adults. Being demanding, persistent, challenging authority, etc…” Wilford wrote. “You want them to be respectful but you also in no way want them to think they need to be submissive.”

It’s a fine balance, as with all things in parenting. It’s also important to keep in mind that the defiance predictor was only noted after accounting for some really important factors (IQ, parental socioeconomic status and education level).

Whatever the case, it’s a safe bet that most parents of little rule breakers don’t have much time to concern themselves with their child’s future earning potential.

What do you think of the study? Tell us in the comments.

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