“三岁看大，七岁看老” (san sui kan da, qi sui kan lao).
This old Chinese proverb roughly translates to “at three years of age, you will see what a child will be like as they grow older; at seven years, you will see what they will be like as an adult.” A recent study conducted by UC Riverside and Oregon researchers shows that this old Chinese proverb may not just be a saying.
Forty years ago, the personalities of 2,400 elementary school children were recorded. Today, the personalities of over a hundred of these current adults were examined to be compared to their previous selves. The study showed that they remained “recognizably the same person.”
Traits looked at ranged from talkativeness and self-minimizing behavior to adaptable and impulsive characteristics. Results showed that adults who were humble and didn’t like to show off in their past, now expressed guilt and insecurity and sought reassurance from others. Adults who were not “verbally fluent” as a child, tended to ask others for advice and gave up in the face of trouble. Oppositely, those who talked a lot as a child spoke fluently as an adult, tried to control situations, showed a high degree of intelligence and honed an interest in intellectual matters.
While one indeed retains certain aspects of their personality from their childhood, I still read that their adult selves are “recognizably the same person” with a grain of salt. I believe that it is difficult to get an accurate representation of an adult’s personality for the purposes of this study, simply because of the reason that their current personality has been affected and changed by the forty years that have gone by. If one does exclude the factor of changes in personality from life experiences, they aren’t receiving a truthful account of their personality. I can only be left wondering if the conclusions from the study are too extreme.
To skeptics, researcher Christopher Nave says, “Life events still influence our behaviors, yet we must acknowledge the power of personality in understanding future behavior as well.” He adds, “One’s personality has important outcomes associated with it.”
Read in further detail about the examined traits here.
Picture by vlorush of Flickr.