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Study Finds Personality May be Set at 3-years-old

January 28, 2008
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Do shy children grow up to be shy adults, and aggressive children become aggressive adults? According to a study published in next month's edition of the Journal of Personality - yes. The 19-year longitudinal study followed 103 children, monitoring their behavior and personality type beginning at age 4 through 23. Personality types were categorized as under-controlled, over-controlled, and resilient; which, the researchers found remained steady for nearly all participants throughout the study.

To gauge the children's initial personality type, the researchers used interview data from parents and teachers. Children who were rambunctious or who showed little control over their impulses were identified as under-controlled. Over-controlled children were shy, quiet and self-conscious, and displayed "too much" control over their feelings. Resilient children were considered good at modulating their emotions, interacting with others and bouncing back from adversity.

Researchers checked back in with the children every year until they were 10-years-old by administering a questionnaire to parents that assessed their child's personality. The questionnaire was again administered at the ages of 12, 17, and 23 years-old. The study found that children originally identified as over-controlled consistently rated high in shyness throughout the study and the under-controllers consistently rated high in aggressiveness.

It also revealed that both the under-controlled and over-controlled groups were slow to assume adult roles. They were slower to leave home or become involved in a romantic relationship than their resilient counterparts. The study did conclude that although all three personality types differed, all participants were healthy and did eventually progress into adulthood.

The study was conducted by Jaap J. A. Dennissen, Jens B. Asendorpf, and Marcel A. G. Van Aken from Humboldt-University Berlin, Germany and Utrecht University, Netherlands. Information for this article was gathered from an article by Linda Caroll at, and the study's abstract.

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