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Child Development: Children Take On Each Other’s Personality Traits

Update Date: Feb 06, 2017 06:58 PM EST

According to previous studies, an individual's personality starts to show soon after birth and balances out around the individual is around his or her 30s. But with a little help from psychological experts and investing in a little work, people can change their personalities. In the latest on child development, researchers from Michigan State University observed that when children play together, they take on each other's personality traits.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests that an individual's personality is not only shaped by the individual's genes but also his or her environment. These are opposite from the common assumption that personality is ingrained in a person and cannot be changed. The biggest agents of change are not the parents or the teachers but the children's friends and classmates.

In order to test their assumptions, the researchers observed two classes of preschoolers for an entire school year. Analysis of personality traits and social networks was done for one class of 3-year olds and another one for a class of 4-year olds.

The study focused on three dimensions of temperament: positive emotionality, negative emotionality, and effortful control. These three are considered by psychologists as the building blocks of temperament and over time changes into the full-fledge personality traits of an individual.

The main finding of the study is that over time, children take on their playmate's personality traits. The study also reports that in choosing friends or playmates, the children choose someone who was more likely to have the same temperament as them. The longer the children play together, the more they become similar when it comes to personality traits.

However, the researchers note that only positive emotionality and effortful controls like being friendly or being hardworking were contagious to other children while negative emotionality was not.

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