Strengthening the Social and Emotional Capacity of Children

Child Outcomes

We have identified five social and emotional skills as critical to student success, and are supporting our investees' capacity to develop, measure, and monitor these skills.

Please click on the social and emotional skill below to learn more about its definition, outcomes, and strategies for development:




The Five Social and Emotional Skills

Research shows that these skills are critical for success in school and in life, helping produce vital outcomes at each stage of development. A few examples are highlighted here.

“I can control my reactions to my environment.”

Self-control relates to the ability to manage one’s emotions and direct behavior in a positive way. Research shows that a child’s ability to regulate his or her emotions is as important to long-term success as IQ.

“Setbacks don’t discourage me from reaching my goals.”

Often called “grit,” persistence is the ability to follow through toward goals, despite roadblocks. This skill is especially critical for low-income kids, who typically face many barriers to success.

“I do my work because I want to get better at it.”

Learning for learning’s sake, and wanting to increase one’s competence while mastering new tasks over time. Students who take a mastery orientation to learning also have a "growth mindset" and believe that intelligence can be boosted through hard work.

“I can do well in school if I try.”

Academic self-efficacy is the belief in one’s ability to perform academic tasks. Arguably, no one can do well in school if they do not believe that they can, and research shows a strong correlation between this skill and academic achievement.

“I can get along well with others”

Socially competent students get along with others, collaborate, and can resolve problems with peers. Research tells us that social competence helps students do better academically and have more positive relationships.

These social and emotional skills are interrelated and equip children with the capacity to regulate themselves; persist toward their goals; learn for the sake of learning; believe that they can achieve; and relate better to others. For more on why we selected these skills, read about the Rationale for our Misson. At the highest level, these five skills are important because they have been found to boost children’s academic achievement, which is, in turn, critical for their long‐term success. These skills are also malleable: they can be improved through strategies that can be used in both the classroom and out‐of‐school time settings. Fundamentally, these are skills that empower children—giving them some measure of control, in the face of serious challenges and barriers, and potentially providing a route out of poverty for the young people who master them.

To support our investees in this work, we commissioned Child Trends to produce a report on how schools and organizations can measure and monitor the development of each of these skills for performance management purposes in elementary-aged settings; you can find this report in the Reports & Tools section of our website. While we encourage investees to use the surveys developed by Child Trends, we gladly support investees to use other valid and reliable SEL assessment tools that best fit their needs and settings.

In addition, we are investing in building knowledge related to teacher-based practices and strategies that lead to the development of these skills. We hope that bringing this research to bear for youth-serving organizations may help to inform program design and performance management systems, and ultimately lead to more schools and organizatons that effectively foster these important skills in children. 

And, recognizing the importance of families as partners in the success of children's academic success, we are supporting our investees to meaningfully engage families in their social and emotional learning and other related efforts.

Learn more about each social and emotional skill:



Mastery Orientation

Academic Self-Efficacy

Social Competence