How Childhood Behavior Can Predict Your Future Massachusetts Relationship

| Dec 28, 2020 | Children |

The question of how to find a steady Massachusetts romantic partnership is among the oldest human predicaments. There is consequently considerable interest in what factors might predict partnership success. Traits like warmth, conscientiousness, agreeableness and trust all seem to matter. But can behavior in childhood predict your future partnering prospects?

A new study published in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry shows that children rated by their elementary schoolteachers as being anxious or inattentive were more likely to remain un-partnered from age 18 to 35 years. Children rated as aggressive-oppositional — those who fight, bully and disobey — were more likely to separate and return to un-partnered status. Conversely, prosocial children, who were rated as being kind, helpful and considerate, showed earlier and more sustained partnerships across early adulthood.

The study suggests that the seeds of future partnering patterns are planted early and are visible even before adolescence. This has important implications for children with behavioral difficulties, who already face many life challenges from unemployment to lower earnings. If they can be identified by teachers, then it may be possible to flag them for assessment and support and improve their life chances.

Good partnerships offer many advantages. They provide emotional support, co-parenting opportunities and socioeconomic security, and can lead to developmental maturation including reduced neuroticism and increased extraversion and self-esteem.

Partnership buffers against the harmful effects of stress, protects against mid-life alcohol and tobacco use, enhances mental health and well-being and is associated with a healthier, longer life. Although the health benefits may not be entirely causal, since happier, healthier individuals might be “selected” into partnership, they appear to be at least partially causal.

Previous research has shown that childhood psychiatric disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder are associated with future partnership difficulties, including intimate partner violence and lower relationship satisfaction.

The study was based on analysis of nearly 3,000 Canadian children who were rated by teachers for behaviors like inattention, hyperactivity, aggression, opposition, anxiety and pro-sociality at age 10, 11 and 12 years and then followed up into adulthood so their anonymized tax return records.

Since Canadian tax regulations require people who are married or cohabiting to report this status in their tax returns, so they able to statistically identify groups of participants who followed common patterns of partnering. Then linked them with their earlier behavioral ratings. Then controlled for participants’ socioeconomic status because some studies show this can influence partnering patterns.

Participants who were predominantly un-partnered from age 18 to 35 years were significantly more likely to have been anxious children, while those who separated early (around age 28 years) and returned to un-partnered status were more likely to have been aggressive-oppositional children. Interestingly, children who were inattentive were more likely to have been in either the un-partnered group or the early separated group.

Participants in the un-partnered and separated groups fared poorly in other ways too: they were more likely to have left high school without a diploma, to have lower earnings and to be in receipt of welfare support. This raises important questions about what underlying factors might explain the link between childhood behavior and future partnering patterns.

Why Behavior Matters for Partnership

Childhood behavior could influence future partnering directly and indirectly. Behavior is relatively stable across development so a direct influence might be the persistence of childhood behaviors — such as aggression or anxiety — into adulthood, which then influence the capacity to form and sustain stable partnerships.

Studies show that adults who are low in agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability, as measured by the big five personality structures, have less satisfying and more tumultuous relationships, and this could undermine relationship stability.

Indirect influences on partnership involve intermediate events, such as employment status or earnings, which have a knock-on effect on accumulation of human capital that contributes to the perceived attractiveness of a partner. For instance, children with disruptive and inattentive behavioral problems typically have fewer friends, under perform at school, are more likely to abuse substances and to have lower earnings and higher welfare receipt as adults — all of which could undermine their capacity to attract and retain romantic partners as adults.

The finding that prosocial children have more stable and sustained partnerships is perhaps unsurprising. They typically have better peer relations and academic attainment in childhood and higher earnings and perceived attractiveness in adulthood, which should enhance their appeal to prospective partners.

This study should not be understood as a normative argument for partnership, implying that people should be partnered or that “longer is better.” Such decisions are highly personal and depend on individual preferences, life goals, financial circumstances, professional ambitions and so on.

Rather, we note that most people do wish to partner, and that partnership may confer important health and well-being benefits, so the persistence of early untreated behavioral difficulties should not become an obstacle to establishing stable partnerships in adulthood.

Supporting Children

Successful partnerships are determined by a multitude of individual and contextual factors, and early behaviors are just one piece of the puzzle. This study shows, once again, that children with behavioral difficulties face many challenges that cascade across their lives, and this includes marginalization from partnership.

Early monitoring and support are crucial and prevention programs that target children’s disruptive, anxious and inattentive behaviors and promote social-emotional skills and can produce lasting effects with benefits for individuals, families and society. After all, there are many reasons to encourage good behavior.

Should you be in the midst of a divorce or paternity case, the interests of your children should be the first priority.

Contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.

Make These 6 Money Moves in December to Maximize Your 2020 Tax Benefits

December is flying by in a flurry of last-minute presents, cold snaps and virtual holiday parties. But don’t get so caught up that you forget your finances. As the calendar year ends, time is running out for you to maximize your 2020 tax benefits.

Dec. 31 is a major deadline, especially if you’re planning to itemize your tax return when you file in 2021. (Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in recent years some 90% of people have taken the standard deduction, so your mileage may vary.)

Here are six things you might want to pay now so you can benefit later.

529 contributions

Dozens of states offer tax benefits to people who contribute to 529 college savings plans, and many have a Dec. 31 deadline for those contributions.

In Alabama, for example, people who give to CollegeCounts plans can deduct up to $5,000 (or $10,000 if they’re married) — but the transaction has to happen on or before the last day of the year. Its website specifically says that if you’re snail-mailing a check, it needs to be postmarked by New Year’s Eve. Illinois gets even more detailed, writing that you have until 11:59 p.m. CT on Dec. 31 to make a contribution online.

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Donations to charity

The CARES Act created a $300 above-the-line deduction even for those who don’t itemize their taxes. But if you do, Colleen Carcone, director of wealth planning strategies at TIAA, says you should take advantage of the tweaked charitable cash contribution limit for 2020.

Usually, the deduction for donations is capped at 60% of your adjusted gross income. This year, you can deduct up to 100%.

“You could, conceivably, write a check to your favorite organization and offset all of your income,” she says. “And if you wrote more of a check, the charitable deduction would carry forward to the next year.”

Your mortgage

Couples filing jointly can deduct the interest paid on qualified residence loans of up to $1 million, depending on when they were secured. (If you file separately, you can deduct interest on as much as $500,000 of the indebtedness.) You can maximize the 2020 tax benefit by making an extra mortgage payment before December ends.

Carcone recommends calling your lender before you actually send over the money. Otherwise, the firm may use the extra payment to offset your principal, defeating the purpose.

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Business expenses

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants suggests people with home businesses and side hustles look at their finances now so they know what to expect next year. Also, if there are any big purchases you’ve been considering, you might want to pull the trigger now.

“By paying for qualified business expenses before the calendar flips to 2021, you will lower your overall 2020 taxable income,” CPA Brooke Salvini said in an AICPA news release.

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Medical bills

You can deduct certain medical expenses if they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

This category is pretty broad — eligible expenses include acupuncture, weight loss programs, insulin, fake teeth, guide dogs and nursing home fees. Carcone says if you incur and pay those bills out pocket by Dec. 31, you can deduct them on your 2020 tax return.

Quarterly estimated taxes

Fourth-quarter estimated tax payments are due Jan. 15. But Mike Savage, CEO of 1-800Accountant, says you might want to avoid procrastinating. If you make your state payment this month, you’re technically meeting the deadline and getting it in before the end of the year. That means you can deduct the payment on your 2020 federal income tax return.

“By making a ‘prepayment’ of your state estimated tax payment for the fourth quarter two weeks earlier, you have accelerated the ability to deduct the payment by a year,” Savage says.

There’s a $10,000 cap on the state and local tax, or SALT, deduction. But you can play with your payment schedule to reach that number if necessary. For example, Carcone says you can also prepay your real estate tax this month.

“If you’re in a low or no income tax state or if you have low or no income this year, that would be a great strategy to get those itemized deductions,” she adds. “As long as you pay it before Dec. 31, you can deduct that in this year.”

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