Monday, February 27, 2017

Small children "absorb" the personality of their friends

education, developmental psychology

When is that you definitively become yourself? The correct answer is: never. Scientific studies suggest that the personality begins to develop soon after birth and stabilizes around 30 years old, but never really comes to consolidate itself, it is constantly evolving until death.

Now, according to research conducted at Michigan State University, also the company we have when we are small helps to mark our personality. These psychologists have monitored the pre-school children throughout the academic year. So they looked at the personality of each child and with whom he chose to play.

They have focused mainly on three aspects, which are considered essential for the formation of character and personality:

1. Positive Emotions, a feature similar to extroversion.

2. Negative Emotions, which are a precursor of anxiety.

3. Control of the effort, which is the equivalent to willpower in early childhood.

During the experiment, the researchers found that children "absorbed" some of the characteristics of their playmates. The good news is that, apparently, only positive emotions and the control of the effort were "contagious". Negative emotions, on the other hand, did not seem to spread from child to child.

Children are not "lost" in the street, but at home

This study is particularly interesting because it shows that in the early stages of life children's friends have greater influences than we thought. Right with 3 or 4 years of age, children are agents of change in their peers.

It was also noted that this influence is more positive than negative. This indicates that the idea that children and teenagers are "lost" in the street is not entirely true, this process really begins at home, with the education received.

If parents treat children with respect from an early age and teach them that the others deserve respect, if they educate them with love, and do not punish the person, but the behaviors, and fulfill their emotional needs, these children will be safer, assertive and less likely to be influenced by the bad behavior of the others.

Therefore, although it is important for parents to be concerned about the friendships of their children, it is also essential that they put in practice a parenting style marked by love and respect. This recalls the famous Pythagorean sentence: "Educate children and it won't be necessary to punish men."

The characteristics of a child of 3 years of age let it glimpse what his personality will be when adult

Although many parents expect that some of their children characteristics are transient and that will improve with the passage of time, the truth is that it is likely that many of these features still remain in adulthood. This is confirmed by a study of psychologists at the University of Wisconsin and King's College London.

These researchers followed for 23 years a group of 1,000 children aged three years and older. They analyzed personality traits such as self-esteem, impulsiveness, introversion and distractibility. Therefore they discovered that after reaching 26 years of age, 96% of these children maintained the same characteristics of personality.

For example, children who did not develop self-control once they reach adolescence were judged from people around them as "unpleasant, tense and anxious." In contrast, children who were more confident and sure of themselves were judged "extroverted and balanced." Those who were shy continued to show this attitude during youth, and reported fewer positive emotions.

This study shows that personality training should not be left to chance and that parents play a crucial role, especially during the first years of life, because have the mission of strengthening the most positive features and favorable to the development of children, avoiding the use of labels that catalog them into characteristics that will only serve to limit them in their future life.

As newborn we have an enormous potential, but we are very permeable to environmental influences, for better or for worse. An education that tends to encourage development can’t lose the sight of this reality.

Neal, J. et. Al. (2017) Codevelopment of Preschoolers’ Temperament Traits and Social Play Networks Over an Entire School Year. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Caspi, A. et. al. (2003) Children's Behavioral Styles at Age 3 Are Linked to Their Adult Personality Traits at Age 26. Journal of Personality; 71(4): 496-513.


Keep feeding your neurons

Small children "absorb" the personality of their friends
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Jennifer Delgado Suárez

Psicologist by profession and passion, dedicated to to string words together. Discover my Books


Psychology as you never heard about...

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