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For example, children who perceived themselves as socially withdrawn exhibited less conscientiousness as adults. On the other hand, kids whose peers perceived them as socially withdrawn grew up to exhibit lower levels of extraversion.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

Tablets can teach kids to solve physical puzzles

September 20, 2017
Researchers confirm that when 4-6 year old children learn how to solve a puzzle using a touchscreen tablet, they can then apply this learning to the same puzzle in the physical world. This contradicts most previous research ...

How the shape and size of your face relates to your sexuality

September 19, 2017
Men and women with shorter, wider faces tend to be more sexually motivated and to have a stronger sex drive than those with faces of other dimensions. These are the findings from a study led by Steven Arnocky of Nipissing ...

Behavioral therapy increases connectivity in brains of people with OCD

September 19, 2017
UCLA researchers report that people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, when treated with a special form of talk therapy, demonstrate distinct changes in their brains as well as improvement in their symptoms.

People with schizophrenia have threefold risk of dying

September 18, 2017
People with schizophrenia are three times more likely to die, and die younger, than the general population, indicating a need for solutions to narrow this gap, according to research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association ...

Cognitive scientists find that people can more easily communicate warmer colors than cool ones

September 18, 2017
The human eye can perceive millions of different colors, but the number of categories human languages use to group those colors is much smaller. Some languages use as few as three color categories (words corresponding to ...

Why bad sleep doesn't always lead to depression

September 18, 2017
Poor sleep is both a risk factor, and a common symptom, of depression. But not everyone who tosses and turns at night becomes depressed.

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.