Personality and Parenting: How your traits might affect your kids

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Earlier this week, Dr. G wrote about the "Big Five" personality traits - five characteristics that have generally been accepted as the building blocks of personality. Coincidentally, the current issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology includes a study that analyzes research on the impact of the Big Five traits on parenting style! Peter Prinzie and his colleagues performed a "meta-analysis" of 30 studies that examined the link between personality and parenting; together, they looked at data from 5,853 parent-child pairs! On a previous episode of the Family Anatomy show, we talked about parenting styles. Prinzie and his colleagues looked at the same dimensions that we talked about: warmth versus rejection (we referred to this as responsiveness), and behavioural control versus chaos (we referred to this as demandingness). A third dimension was also included, autonomy support versus coercion. Before we get to the findings, here's a quick review of the Big Five traits:

  1. Openness to experience: enjoying new experiences, having a broad range of interests, being imaginative
  2. Conscientiousness: being well-organized and goal-oriented, possessing high standards
  3. Extroversion: enjoying interpersonal interactions, having a high activity level, being outgoing and sociable
  4. Agreeableness: being empathic in thoughts, feelings, and actions, being easygoing
  5. Emotional Stability/Reactivity: being stressed, nervous, and tense

The researchers found consistent links between parents' personalities (according to both mothers' and fathers' reports) and their parenting styles, but the strength of the relationships were small. High scores on the first four traits listed above, and low scores on emotional reactivity, were related to greater parental warmth and control; that is, parents who were more agreeable, extroverted, etc., were more likely to have emotionally close, responsive relationships with their kids while maintaining high expectations for their behaviour. With regard to supporting the development of their children's independence, parents who were more agreeable and less emotionally reactive were more likely to encourage autonomy in their kids. Interestingly, links between emotional reactivity, agreeableness and parenting seemed to become smaller for older parents and kids.

So, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a relationship between parents' personality and their parenting practices; it's a small relationship, but it's there. Why should this matter to readers of Family Anatomy? As we said on the Parenting Styles episode of the show, it can be helpful for parents to be aware of the typical strategies that they use when dealing with their kids, especially since warm, responsive parenting with high standards for behavioural control has consistently been linked with a number of positive outcomes for kids. Although your personality can often help to predict your behaviour or feelings in a particular situation, it doesn't necessarily dictate how you behave. However, in order to act in opposition to those tendencies, you need to be aware of them. You don't need a personality test to consider how open, extroverted, or agreeable you are, and to examine how that might influence your interactions with your kids!

You can read the Prinzie article here. If you have a different opinion, leave a comment!

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