Predictors of Achievement from Early Childhood to Adulthood


This project significantly contributes to the growing body of research on physical attractiveness as a source of social stratification that has wide implications for health, akin to more frequently studied factors like race and gender. Health is an integral component of the approach to this project ― as a dimension of physical attractiveness (e.g., weight), as a mechanism by which physical attractiveness has effects on social and academic achievement (e.g., mental health), and because the adult socioeconomic attainment that is expected to reflect histories of physical attractiveness is a fundamental component of lifelong health and health disparities. This project also provides a practical service to the field by expanding a public data set so that it can be used to study the role of attractiveness in a wide variety of outcomes, including health behaviors and health disparities.

This project creates the most comprehensive longitudinal data set ever amassed about physical attractiveness from infancy through adolescence. 

The project makes use of research materials from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, the most comprehensive study of children and the many environments in which they develop. That study followed a cohort of more than 1,300 children from infancy to age 15, along with their families. Videotapes recorded at nearly a dozen time points in the study will be re-coded for this project.

These new data allow the project to describe trajectories of beauty in the SECCYD cohort and test important hypotheses derived from an integrative theoretical model put forward in a new book by the investigators.

Based on status characteristics and life course theory as well as developmental systems and stigma perspectives, beauty's association with higher achievement is expected to operate through mental health mechanisms, including positive mood, perceived competence, and self esteem. These mental health resources are expected to counteract some of the ways being good looking could distract from schooling (i.e., physical assets might accentuate desires to climb the social ladder as young people move into and through adolescence and its associated peer contexts). Differences in the strength of associations by social location (gender, race/ethnicity, SES), by developmental period (early childhood, elementary, junior, and high school), and by ecological contexts (schools) will also be examined.

The results of this project, and the new source of public-use data created by it, will stimulate future developmental, social-psychological, and public health research on physical attractiveness as a stratifying force.

Principal investigator
Funding Agency

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health (Grant No. R01 HD081022)


Principal investigator (Non-UIC)
Robert Crosnoe, PhD, University of Texas at Austin

Co-investigators (UT-Austin)
Daniel S. Hamermesh, PhD
Judith H. Langlois, PhD

Start date
End date
Total award
For more information, contact
Dr. Rachel Gordon

Related publications

Crabbe, R., Pivnick, L. K., Bates, J., Gordon, R. A., & Crosnoe, R. (2018). Contemporary College Students’ Reflections on Their High School Peer Crowds. Journal of Adolescent Research. doi:10.1177/0743558418809537