Did you turn out to be who you thought you’d become when you were little? Not very probable. Research shows that we are not the best estimators of our future personality. Our peers seem to know way better in what social direction we’re headed. Listening to their opinion could therefore be the key to more success in life.
Researchers of the Concordia University in Canada studied children and their peers in grade one, four and seven and put them to the test again when they were in their mid-thirties. The children filled in a questionnaire about their own and their peers level of aggression, social withdrawal and likeability. When adults, the subjects were tested with the widely used Five Factor Model of personality.
With the results of 621 subjects the researchers found some significant associations between the self-rated personality in childhood and the personality score more than twenty years later. If the children reported social withdrawal in their own behavior, for example, they were generally less conscientious as an adult. Conscientiousness can be described as self-disciplined, deliberate and thorough.
But the researchers found much more significant correlations between adult personality and the perception of peers. Children that were seen by their peers as relatively aggressive and not very likeable, for instance, were often more neurotic when adults. Peer-rated likeability was associated with higher agreeableness and conscientiousness.
The researchers say this stronger predictive factor of peers perception may have to do with the larger amount of peers rating one person, compared to the self-perception scores that only one person can supply. Multiple raters are often more reliable. But that doesn’t change the conclusion that peers perception might help to detect anti-social behavior at an early age. An important finding, since the five personality factors of adults have proved, in other studies, to affect their health, mental health and occupational satisfaction.
Martin-Storey, A, Serbin, LA, Stack, DM, Ledingham, JE, & Schwartzman, AE (2012). Self and peer perceptions of childhood aggression, social withdrawal and likeability predict adult personality factors: A prospective longitudinal study Personality and Individual Differences DOI: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2011.07.043