Why Troublemaker Kids Make Great Entrepreneurs

You already know all the villainous occupational stereotypes: the corrupt politician, the  greedy lawyer, the sticky-fingered accountant. Well, here's one you may not have heard yet … the evil entrepreneur.

According to researchers in Sweden and Germany, most entrepreneurs start out as … well, troublemakers.

The psychologists who came up with this theory examined a Swedish study that followed approximately 1,000 children from one Swedish town over a 40-year period. What they found was that the children who ended up being entrepreneurs as adults were often the ones who got into trouble as kids.

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"We analyzed this data regarding the entrepreneurship the participants were showing later on in their professional careers. We wanted to know what kind of social behavior they showed," Martin Obschonka from the Center for Applied Developmental Science at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Sweden said. What they found was that those entrepreneurs were more likely to show anti-social tendencies in adolescence. They also noted a higher rate of criminal offenses (but mostly misdemeanors)among those who ended up becoming entrepreneurs.

Researchers said the data showed more frequent disregard of parental orders, more frequent cheating at school, more incidents of truancy, and  more regular drug consumption and shoplifting, the researchers report. These results were particularly applicable to male participants.

The good news is that, over time, these future business owners seem to have shed their wayward ways.

By the time the participants reached adulthood, the entrepreneurial set was no more likely to exhibit anti-social behaviors than those who went on to other occupations.

Obschonka said it is not entirely surprising that entrepreneurs showed a tendency toward risk-taking as youth. The same character traits that drive people to be innovative and take risks as entrepreneurs, may have its roots in adolescent rule-breaking behavior.

"The data suggest that a rebellious adolescent behavior against socially accepted standards and an early questioning of boundaries doesn't necessarily lead to criminal and anti-social careers," Obschonka said. "It can rather be the basis for a productive and socially acceptable entrepreneurship."

Obschonka conducted the research with Swedish colleagues from the University of Stockholm.

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