A Moment of Science

Your Personality May Be Set By 1st Grade

What were you like as a child? Chances are, your adult personality is very similar to your childhood personality.

boys in a preschool class

Photo: woodly wonderworks (Flickr)

Each of these boys has a very distinct personality. However, their personalities may not change as they grow into adults.

It may be hard to believe but a new study says that our personalities stay relatively constant from childhood.

The scientists used data from an earlier study in the 1960s. The study involved 2,400 children from diverse backgrounds. Researchers compared teacher personality ratings with videotaped interviews of the subjects as adults 40 years later.

The researchers noted that there was a strong correlation between how the now-adult students saw themselves and how their teachers saw them.

Personality Traits And The Future

The scientists studied four personality traits:

  • Talkativeness
  • Adaptability (coping ability)
  • Impulsiveness
  • Self-minimizing behavior (how humble a person is)

Talkative Children

Talkative children showed an interest in conversation and control as adults. Quieter children sought advice and were more likely to give up in tough situations as adults.

Christopher Nave, the study’s author, said in an email to the A Moment of Science staff that these traits can manifest themselves in a variety of ways:

Verbally fluent kids had a lot of positive behaviors later in life — but were still seen to act condescending and sarcastic in the interview.

Adaptive Children

Highly adaptive children were able to face tough situations with ease as adults. Yet, those who were less adaptive as children, struggled and sometimes gave up when faced with tough situations.

Impulsive Children

Impulsive children were noted as being loud, talkative adults. More reserved children were quieter and more timid adults.

Self-Minimizing Children

Self-minimizing children expressed guilt, sought reassurance, and expressed insecurity as adults. Children who ranked low on the humbleness scale were louder as adults.

Further Research

It is important to note that the study does not say personality will be set in stone. But, it encourages scientists to investigate clues and indicators about future behavior from an early age.  Scientists want us to explore how others perceive us and how we see ourselves.

Nave expressed the complexity of his field of study in an interview with the New York Post:

There are people out there that claim the power of the situation will dictate behavior, it’s more complicated than that.

This study is important because previous research suggested that personalities can change but it’s not easy. In the future, scientists hope to understand how personality is related to behavior and examine changes in personality.

Read More:

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, and for more A Moment of Science updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!

Margaret Aprison

Margaret is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Telecommunications and a minor in Psychology. The daughter of two scientists, Margaret has been surrounded by the subject her entire life. She enjoys social media, writing, television, and, of course, science!

View all posts by this author »

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science