A survey of mothers of young babies has shown that extraversion is the personality trait they most want for their child ahead of characteristics such as intelligence and conscientiousness, researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London have found.
Just 10% of the 142 mothers surveyed rated intelligence as the most important characteristic compared to 51% rating extraversion top. This is despite strong evidence that intelligence and conscientiousness are important predictors of academic and career success and stable marital relationships.
A report detailing the results is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
Dr Sophie von Stumm, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Goldsmiths and co-author, said: “Given that higher levels of intelligence and conscientiousness are both linked to positive life outcomes such as success at school, at work, and in relationships, it’s surprising that only 1 in 10 mothers valued them as the most important characteristics for their child.
“While extraversion can have many benefits it is also associated with negative behaviours in adulthood, such as higher alcohol consumption and illegal drug use. Understanding how mothers view personality is vital as their values influence their parenting and, through this, how their child’s personality traits develop.”
For the study mothers were asked to choose which facet they preferred from each of the ‘Big Five’ personality traits; Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, Agreeableness, and Openness to experience. They then ranked the facets they had selected – together with ‘intelligence’ – from ‘most’ to ‘least’ important for their child to have. When the facet results for the traits were combined 51% ranked Extraversion as ‘most important’, compared to 20% for Agreeableness, 10% for Openness, 10% for Intelligence, 9% for Conscientiousness and 0% for Neuroticism.
Dr Rachel Latham, Postdoctoral Research Assistant in Psychology at Goldsmiths and first author, said: “We focused on the views of mothers, as they typically spend more time with their children than fathers, but it would be useful to examine the personality values of fathers too. It would also be interesting to examine if mothers’ preference for extraversion changes over time as children grow older and enter formal education.
“In the long run we hope studies such as these can help us to understand how parents’ values shape a child’s personality and how this impacts on how children develop and learn and their future health, happiness, and success.”
A report of the results, entitled 'Mothers want extraversion over conscientiousness or intelligence for their children', is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
The survey was of 142 mothers living in the UK with infants a year old or younger (84 boys and 58 girls). The majority lived with a partner (137), had one or two children at home (126) and had an undergraduate degree (122). Almost two-thirds (89) worked full or part-time. The mothers were aged from 22 to 46 years old.
Photo: Bob Whitehead