Child Personality Predicts Adult Behavior

August 2010 - Personality traits observed in childhood are a strong predictor of adult behavior according to research from the the University of California, Riverside, the Oregon Research Institute and University of Oregon to be published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The researchers drew on data from a study of approximately 2400 ethnically diverse elementary school students in Hawaii in the 1960s, comparing personality ratings by teachers at the time with videotaped interviews of 144 of those individuals forty years later.

Lead author and doctoral candidate Christopher S. Nave explained:

"We remain recognisably the same person. This speaks to the importance of understanding personality because it does follow us wherever we go across time and contexts."

The researchers examined four personality attributes:

  • verbally fluent
  • adaptable
  • impulsive
  • self-minimising

Students who had been identified as verbally fluent (defined as unrestrained talkativeness) tended in middle age to be interested in intellectual matters, speak fluently, try to control the situation, and demonstrate a high degree of intelligence. Those who had been rated low tended to seek advice, give up when faced with challenges, and exhibit 'an awkward interpersonal style'.

Students who had been rated as highly adaptable (defined as coping easily and successfully with new situations) tended, in adulthood, to behave cheerfully, speak fluently and show interest in intellectual matters. Those who had been rated low tended to say negative things about themselves, seek advice and exhibit an awkward interpersonal style.

Students who had been rated as impulsive tended, as adults, to speak loudly, display a wide range of interests and be talkative.

Those who had been rated low tended to demonstrate fear or timidity, expressing insecurity and maintaining a distance from others.

Students who had been rated as having a tendency to self-minimise (defined as humble, minimising their own importance or never showing off ) were likely to express guilt, seek reassurance, say negative things about themselves and express insecurity as adults. Those ranked low tended to speak loudly, show interest in intellectual matters and exhibit condescending behavior.

Christopher S. Nave commented:

"We think that personality resides within us. Itís a part of us, a part of our biology. Life events still influence our behaviors, yet we must acknowledge the power of personality in understanding future behavior as well."

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