Research has consistently shown that individuals who possess a realistic perception of their abilities tend to excel in life compared to others. The ability to accurately assess oneself, whether contemplating an apprenticeship or pursuing higher education, choosing between language or science disciplines, or determining the best-suited path, plays a vital role. The precision with which young people answer these critical questions is heavily influenced by their social environment. A comprehensive study, based on the briq family panel, which systematically tracks the development of children from nearly 600 families, confirms this notion.
The study highlights the challenges faced by children from disadvantaged backgrounds in accurately classifying their abilities. This poses a significant disadvantage when making pivotal life decisions, such as selecting a career path. On average, individuals with more precise self-assessment achieve greater success, enjoy higher incomes, and even experience better overall health.
Marble game unveils insights into self-assessment skills
To gauge the self-assessment abilities of primary school-aged children, the researchers devised an innovative game centered around marbles, where children had the opportunity to win toys. In this game, eight to nine-year-olds were tasked with rolling marbles into holes. After a training round, they were given the autonomy to determine the difficulty of the task by choosing the size of the hole. Opting for smaller holes led to greater rewards, but it also increased the difficulty and the likelihood of not winning. The results of the game demonstrated that children from higher socio-economic status families outperformed those from lower status families.
Nurturing accurate self-assessment through mentoring
To examine who this disadvantageous starting position can be rectified, the study authors randomly divided the children from educationally disadvantaged families into two groups: one received support through a mentoring program for a year, while the other did not. The program, known as “Balu und Du,” enlisted the assistance of young individuals, predominantly university students, who volunteered to sponsor a child. They spent several hours each week engaging in interactive activities, such as playing together, crafting, making music, or participating in sports. These activities enabled the children to make new experiences, learn about themselves and thereby improve their self-assessment.
After a year, the mentored group of students scored significantly better in the self-assessment game. The mentoring program even had such a substantial impact on their self-assessment that during this time these children had reached the same level as their peers from socio-economically advantaged families. This showcases the vital role of interactive support in fostering the development of a realistic self-assessment.
Long-term positive effects
The positive effects of the mentoring program have proven to be sustainable over the long term. Six years after the conclusion of the mentoring intervention, the researchers revisited the children, who were now teenagers, and asked them about their school performance. Comparing self-assessed performance with actual grades revealed that children with higher socio-economic status and those who had participated in the mentoring program consistently displayed significantly better self-assessment abilities.