They may say that curiosity killed the cat, but people often forget that satisfaction brought it back. This sentiment holds especially true for inquisitive kids, whose curiosity may be rewarded with higher academic achievement.
A new study, published in the journal Pediatric Research, found that regardless of a child's economic background, the more curious they were, the better they performed academically.
This finding is quite important, considering that in general, kids from less affluent economic backgrounds tend to have lower academic achievement than their fellow classmates.
However, the research team from University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and the Center for Human Growth and Development found that curious kids from lower economic backgrounds performed similarly to their peers from high-income families in maths and reading assessments.
The team examined data from 6,200 kindergartners from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.
The children were assessed at the ages of nine months and two years old. The researchers assessed the kids once again when they entered preschool and kindergarten
Curiosity was measured using a behavioural questionnaire from parents. The children's reading and math achievement were assessed when they were kindergarteners (in 2006 and 2007). The team also measured 'effortful control' (how well kids stay on-task in class), which is linked to academic achievement.
Lead researcher Prachi Shah, M.D., a developmental and behavioural paediatrician at Mott and an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan's Center for Human Growth and Development, told Science Daily:
"Our results suggest that while higher curiosity is associated with higher academic achievement in all children, the association of curiosity with academic achievement is greater in children with low socioeconomic status."
She further explained, "Curiosity is characterised by the joy of discovery and the desire for exploration and is characterised by the motivation to seek answers to the unknown.
"Promoting curiosity in children, especially those from environments of economic disadvantage may be an important, under-recognised way to address the achievement gap."
Kids whose families are better-off financially have more access to educational materials that can stimulate an early interest in learning, the authors noted. Their counterparts growing up in lower income households usually have less stimulating environments.
Therefore, when a child is growing up in a less stimulating environment, their drive to learn (curiosity) is linked to their academic performance
The study also had interesting findings about effortful control. Regardless of a child's level of effortful control, curious kids did well in reading and maths.
"These findings suggest that even if a child manifests low effortful control, they can still have more optimal academic achievement, if they have high curiosity," Shah observed.
"Currently, most classroom interventions have focused on the cultivation of early effortful control and a child's self-regulatory capacities, but our results suggest that an alternate message, focused on the importance of curiosity, should also be considered."
Shah and her team said that they would like to conduct further research about how to foster curiosity in young kids.