This Study Shows Preschool Personalities are Contagious

According to new research, there are some cooties your kids should get – it’s been found by scholars from the psychology department at Michigan State University that personality traits, especially the good ones, are contagious amongst preschoolers.

There’s an ongoing, never-ending debate about how much of our disposition is owed to genes and how much is owed to environmental factors (good old “nature vs nurture”). But this new study might lend some weight to the latter. Michigan State University researchers studied two preschool classes for an entire school year, pored over their data, and reported that social groups (cliques) and traits between children become similar over time.

What’s more, they saw that children whose play partners were hard-working and gregarious took on these traits, while children whose play partners with those who were overanxious or who gave up easily, tended to be more resistant to picking up those behaviors. Believe it or not, this is the first study to show how likely children are to influence each other’s personality (amazing, right?), and it’s also the first one to show that positive traits tend to catch on more easily than negative ones.

“Our finding that personality traits are ‘contagious’ among children, flies in the face of common assumptions that personality is ingrained and can’t be changed,” said Jennifer Watling Neal, an associate professor of psychology and a coinvestigator on the study. “This is important because some personality traits can help children succeed in life, while others can hold them back.”

Emily Durbin, also a study coinvestigator and associate professor of psychology, said that kids are having a more profound effect on each other than their teachers and parents may realize. Durbin believes that the role of the children’s peers in education has been significantly underestimated. “Parents spend a lot of their time trying to teach their child to be patient, to be a good listener, not to be impulsive. But this wasn’t their parents or their teachers affecting them — it was their friends. It turns out that 3- and 4-year-olds are being change agents.”

So the next time you’re worried about another child's bad behavior rubbing off on yours, you can rest easy. Good influences will more than likely win out!

What do you think of this study? Have you observed your kids’ good nature rub off on their playmates, or vice versa?

Tags : development   preschool   

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