Playground peers can predict adult personalities

September 20, 2012

Even on the playground, our friends know us better than we know ourselves. New research has revealed that your childhood peers from grade school may be able to best predict your success as an adult.

Lisa Serbin of the Department of Psychology at Concordia University and Alexa Martin-Storey, a recent Concordia graduate and a current post-doctoral student at the University of Texas – both members of the Concordia-based Centre for Research in Human Development – recently published a study online, which reveals that childhood peer evaluation of classmate personalities can more accurately predict adulthood success than self-evaluation at that age.

"This study, known as the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project, was started in 1976 by my colleagues in the Department of Psychology, Alex Schwartzman and Jane Ledingham, who is now at the University of Ottawa" says Serbin. "Over two years, Montreal students in grades 1, 4 and 7 completed peer evaluations of their and rated them in terms of aggression, likeability and . The students also did self-evaluations."

Over the next 20 years, these children were closely followed as researchers used the exhaustive longitudinal study to track their progress into adulthood. A follow-up survey was conducted between 1999 and 2003 with nearly 700 of the participants from the initial study. The survey included measurement of adult , such as levels of neuroticism, extroversion, openness, and conscientiousness.

"We were able to compare peer and self-perceptions of the childhood behaviours to these adult personality factors," says Martin-Storey. "We found the evaluations from the group of were much more closely associated with eventual adult outcomes than were their own personality perceptions from childhood. This makes sense, since children are around their peers all day and behaviours like aggressiveness and likeability are extremely relevant in the ."

For example, children who perceived themselves as socially withdrawn exhibited less conscientiousness as adults. On the other hand, kids whose peers perceived them as socially withdrawn grew up to exhibit lower levels of extraversion. The latter being a more accurate association.

Peer-perceived likeability also predicted a more accurate outcome, associating the personality trait with higher levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness, and lower levels of neuroticism than those who thought of themselves as likeable. Overall, the findings supported the use of peer rather than self-ratings of personalities in the prediction of adulthood success.

"Adult traits are associated with a lot of important life factors, such as health, mental health and occupational satisfaction," says Serbin. "The information from our study could be used to promote better longitudinal outcomes for children by helping kids and parents develop effective mechanisms for addressing aggressive or socially withdrawn behaviours and promoting more pro-social behaviour."

Explore further: Personality affects how likely we are to take our medication

Related Stories

Personality affects how likely we are to take our medication

May 10, 2011
The results of a unique study from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, show that personality has an impact on how likely people are to take their medication. This is the first major study of its kind to be published in ...

Anxiety interferes with some children's capacity to form friendships

August 30, 2011
As children move toward adolescence, they rely increasingly on close relationships with peers. Socially withdrawn children, who have less contact with peers, may miss out on the support that friendships provide. In a new ...

Childhood aggression linked to poorer health in adults

November 14, 2011
Childhood aggression is strongly linked to poorer health in adults and to higher use of health services, according to a new study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Recommended for you

Cultural values can be a strong predictor of alcohol consumption

November 20, 2017
Countries with populations that value autonomy and harmony tend to have higher average levels of alcohol consumption than countries with more traditional values, such as hierarchy and being part of a collective. This new ...

A walk at the mall or the park? New study shows, for moms and daughters, a walk in the park is best

November 17, 2017
Spending time together with family may help strengthen the family bond, but new research from the University of Illinois shows that specifically spending time outside in nature—even just a 20-minute walk—together can ...

Risk of distracted driving predicted by age, gender, personality and driving frequency

November 17, 2017
New research identifies age, gender, personality and how often people drive as potential risk factors for becoming distracted while driving. Young men, extroverted or neurotic people, and people who drive more often were ...

When male voles drink alcohol, but their partner doesn't, their relationship suffers

November 17, 2017
A study of the effect of alcohol on long-term relationships finds that when a male prairie vole has access to alcohol, but his female partner doesn't, the relationship suffers - similar to what has been observed in human ...

Spanking linked to increase in children's behavior problems

November 16, 2017
Children who have been spanked by their parents by age 5 show an increase in behavior problems at age 6 and age 8 relative to children who have never been spanked, according to new findings in Psychological Science, a journal ...

Multiplayer video games: Researchers discover link between skill and intelligence

November 15, 2017
Researchers at the University of York have discovered a link between young people's ability to perform well at two popular video games and high levels of intelligence.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.