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Playground pals can predict adult success
[Posted: Fri 21/09/2012 by Gillian Tsoi www.irishhealth.com]
Even on the playground, our friends know us better than we know ourselves.
New research has revealed that your childhood peers from primary school may be able to predict how successful you will be as an adult.
Researchers in Canada have shown that the evaluation of children by their classmates can more accurately predict adulthood success than self-evaluation at that age.
This study, known as the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project, was started in 1976 by researchers at Concordia University in Montreal.
Over two years, Montreal students, aged between five and 10 years, completed peer evaluations of their classmates and rated them in terms of aggression, likeability and social withdrawal. The students also did self-evaluations.
Over the next 20 years, the children were closely followed by the researchers, who used the exhaustive studies to track their progress into adulthood.
A follow-up survey was conducted between 1999 and 2003 with nearly 700 of the participants from the initial study. The survey included measurement of adult personality traits, such as levels of neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
"We were able to compare peer and self-perceptions of the childhood behaviours to these adult personality factors," said Alexa Martin-Storey, a member of the Concordia-based Centre for Research in Human Development.
"We found the evaluations from the group of peers were much more closely associated with eventual adult outcomes than were their own personality perceptions from childhood. This makes sense, since children are around their peers all day and behaviours like aggressiveness and likeability are extremely relevant in the school environment."
For example, children who perceived themselves as socially withdrawn were less conscientious as adults. On the other hand, kids whose peers perceived them as socially withdrawn grew up to be less extroverted. The latter being a more accurate prediction.
Children who were thought of as likeable by their peers also grew up to have more agreeable and conscientious personalities. They were also less neurotic than those who thought of themselves as likeable.
Overall, the findings supported the notion that peer evaluation was better for gauging adulthood success, than self-evaluation.
"Adult personality traits are associated with a lot of important life factors, such as health, mental health and occupational satisfaction," said Lisa Serbin, from the Department of Psychology at Concordia University.
"The information from our study could be used to promote better longitudinal outcomes for children by helping kids and parents develop effective mechanisms for addressing aggressive or socially withdrawn behaviours and promoting more pro-social behaviour."
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