Research Handbook on the Sociology of Education
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Research Handbook on the Sociology of Education

Edited by Rolf Becker

Presenting original contributions from the key experts in the field, the Research Handbook on the Sociology of Education explores the major theoretical, methodological, empirical and political challenges and pressing social questions facing education in current times.
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Chapter 23: Socio-emotional skills in education and beyond: recent evidence and future research avenues

Clemens M. Lechner, Silke Anger and Beatrice Rammstedt


During the past two decades, socio-emotional (or ‘non-cognitive’) skills have gained currency in research on education. In this chapter we begin by introducing the reader to the concept of socio-emotional skills and identify core themes in the current body of evidence. We then review recent studies, including several from our own research groups, which illustrate research on each of these core themes. Using the Big Five framework of personality as a guidepost, and drawing on large-scale data, these studies shed light on three main issues. First, they show that socio-emotional skills contribute to educational outcomes (e.g., academic success and educational transitions) in childhood and adolescence – above and beyond cognitive skills and socioeconomic background. Second, they demonstrate that socio-emotional skills co-shape important life outcomes in adulthood (e.g., income, health and social participation) over and above formal educational attainment and cognitive skills. Third, they demonstrate that various educational factors (e.g., characteristics of educational systems such as school starting age, schooling intensity) contribute to the formation of socio-emotional skills in childhood and adolescence. We conclude by outlining future avenues for research on socio-emotional skills in the educational context that pays particular attention to enhancing causal inference and strengthening policy relevance.

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