Children’s personalities at three are their personalities for life

This photo gives you an idea of the personalities I’m dealing with.

Have you ever wondered what your kids will be like when they grow up? Well, I’m excited today to share a real way to answer that question. This is one of the most fascinating things I’ve learned in recent years, and I know you’re going to be fascinated too.

According to a study published in 2003 (yes, 15 years ago!), the personality children demonstrate at age three is their personality for life.

Is that amazing or what? Some of you are probably feeling terrified, and some of you are probably feeling relief. I’m feeling a bit of both.

In 1975 and 1976 the study’s authors observed 1,000 three year olds who demonstrated five types of temperament: undercontrolled, inhibited, confident, reserved, and well-adjusted. Twenty-three years the authors caught up with 96 percent of the kids in the study, who were now 26. And the conclusion was that “children’s early-emerging behavioral styles can foretell their characteristic behaviors, thoughts, and feelings as adults.”

If things are largely set by age three, it seems like no coincidence that many parents also identify behavioral or emotional issues in their children around the same age—so interesting.

Now that I think about it, my older sons have the same personalities they did at three. My son who’s long been defiant and independent and needs constant stimulation and activity still does, and he’s 12. My son who’s sensitive, loving, thoughtful, and obedient still is, and he’s almost 10. (Can you guess which kid is easier to parent? Ha!)

I don’t know why I never ran across this study before—is it familiar to you? And are the findings consistent with your personality and how you were as a kid? What about your own kids—are their dispositions similar to how they were as toddlers? I’d love to hear.

P.S. Want to read more? Here’s a good article (reference to the study discussed here can be found towards the end).

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