A new study reveals the extent to which children’s personality types can predict the timing of key transitional moments between childhood and adulthood.
The study set out to examine whether childhood personality would predict the timing of important transitional events moving into adulthood, including leaving the parents’ home, establishing a romantic relationship, and entering the world of part-time work.
Participants consisted of 230 children who were studied every year from their first or second year in preschool until age 12. After age 12, the sample was reassessed twice, at ages 17 and 23. Researchers led by Jaap Denissen of Humboldt-University Berlin assessed degrees of shyness and aggressiveness through parental scales and teacher reports.
Denissen tested the hypotheses on the predictive validity of three major preschool personality types. Resilient personality is characterized by above average emotional stability, IQ, and academic achievement. Overcontrol is characterized by low scores on extraversion, emotional stability, and self-esteem. Undercontrol is characterized by low scores on emotional stability and agreeableness and high scores on aggressive behavior.
The 19-year longitudinal study illustrated that childhood personality types were meaningfully associated with the timing of the transitions. Resilient males were found to leave their parents’ house approximately one year earlier than overcontrolled or undercontrolled children. Overcontrolled boys took more than a year longer than others in finding a romantic partner. Resilient boys and girls were faster in getting a part-time job than their overcontrolled and undercontrolled peers.
“Studies of so-called natural experiments will continue to be useful in elucidating the effects of life experiences on personality development,” the authors conclude.
Journal reference: Jaap J. A. Dennissen, Jens B. Asendorpf, Marcel A. G. van Aken (2008) Childhood Personality Predicts Long-Term Trajectories of Shyness and Aggressiveness in the Context of Demographic Transitions in Emerging Adulthood. Journal of Personality 76 (1) , 67–100 doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2007.00480.x
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