Infant temperament predicts personality more than 20 years later

A new study from the University of Maryland in the US provides evidence that infant temperament can predict personality in adulthood.

The study followed 165 infants from 4 months of age and assessed their behavioural inhibition (BI) at 14 months. BI is characterized by cautious, fearful, and avoidant behavior toward unfamiliar people, objects, and situations. It has been found to be relatively stable across toddlerhood and childhood and children with BI have been found to be at risk of developing social withdrawal and anxiety disorders.

 At age 15 and 26, participants undertook self-assessments of psychopathology, personality, social functioning, and education and employment outcomes.

 The researchers found that BI at 14 months of age predicted that participants would have a more reserved personality at age 26, fewer romantic relationships in the past 10 years, and lower social functioning with friends and family. BI was not associated with education and employment outcomes.

This study highlights the enduring nature of early temperament on adult outcomes and may point the way to identification of families and children who need extra intervention or support.

Read more: Tang, A., Crawford, H., Morales, S., Degnan, K.A., Pine, D.S. et al. (2020) Infant behavioral inhibition predicts personality and social outcomes three decades later. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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