Our adult personality and social life may have been decided in our infancy. A recent NIH study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed an infant’s temperament could be a deciding factor on adult personality. For instance, infants with behavioral inhibition grow up to be reserved and introverted adults at age 26. Similarly, adolescents who are sensitive about making errors are more likely to internalize disorders (like depression and anxiety) in adulthood.
The research team focused on behavioral inhibition or BI as a specific temperament. Earlier research has shown that BI remains relatively stable throughout childhood. Children with BI were more likely to develop anxiety disorders and social withdrawal than children without BI. The current study investigated previous findings with a long-term study and neurophysiological data. The team selected their participants at 4 months of age, following this up with evaluation of children with BI at 14 months.
These participants returned at 15 years of age to provide neurophysiological measures. They were again contacted at age 26 for measuring their personality, psychopathology, and social functioning. The team also assessed the participants’ education and employment prospects. They found that participants with BI at 14 months were more likely to have a reserved personality with lower social functioning at age 26. They social relationships were fewer with regards to romantic partners, friends, and family.
Toddlers with BI at 14 months coupled with larger error-related negativity 15 years of age also showed higher levels of internalizing psychopathology. However, there were no associations with externalizing general psychopathology or any impact on education and employment prospects.