A Moment of Science

Personalities: Flexible Or Set For Life?

Could it be true that are personalities are determined by the time we reach the 1st grade?

smiling and happy school children

Photo: Anne Roberts (Flickr)

Your personality may be set by the time you reach grade school.

If you think back to when you were a teenager or even younger, you may grimace at things you said, did, and thought. Thank goodness, you might say, I’m no longer the same crazy kid I once was.

Except that in many ways, you’re more or less the same. At least as far as your personality goes. According to some research, our personalities are set as early as the first grade. And they stay pretty much the same throughout our lives.

Changing Personalities

People do change, of course. We change our minds, develop new interests and drop old ones.

But through it all, according to the research, our personalities–those basic dispositions that govern how we interact with the world–are less changeable than we may like to believe.

Personalities Remain Remarkably Stable

The research used data from a study begun in 1960 that recorded teacher personality ratings of 2400 grade school age kids.

Forty years later, those same former students did video taped interviews. When the researchers compared the initial personality ratings with the video interviews, they found the subjects’ personalities had remained remarkably stable.

The Future

For example, kids who were highly talkative tended to be verbally fluent and intellectually curious as adults. Kids who were quiet turned out to be shy and awkward as adults.

Keep in mind that we’re talking about trends, not cold hard facts. Not every shy kid will remain so throughout life. And some outgoing, highly verbal kids may become less confident and outgoing later on.

But by and large, according to the data, we’re born with a personality already in place. And it stays with us.
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