A child’s future can sometimes look like a competitive maze that will swallow our children up if we don’t prepare them thoroughly for it. It’s reasonable to want to assure their preparedness in any way that a parent can. Perhaps a test can help a parent grasp their child’s personality type? Perhaps recognizing a child’s personality strengths and weaknesses can be a tool that a parent can use to help them grow into adult life?
Paying attention to a child’s emerging personality is a great idea. If you are an attentive parent, as you likely are if you’re reading this article, you can’t help but notice and probably respond to your children accordingly.
But giving them our personality test before they’re ready is problematic. Here’s the way we see it.
We Designed Our Personality Test for Adults
It may surprise no one, but children are not adults. They rarely date (playdates don’t count). Marriage is out of the question. Very few children hold jobs. Money is… Well, let’s just say you don’t want to go to most of them for a loan.
But seriously, our test focuses on adults. We designed the questions to measure things that are important to adults. Our Terms and Conditions provide guidelines for the minimum age of those we feel would best benefit from taking our test.
That may be our best answer, but it may not be satisfying for many. It begs the question, “Why not make a test geared toward children?” For our thinking on why that might not be helpful, please read on.
As Children Develop, They Change
Most researchers agree, regarding personality types, that the answer to the question, “Are personality traits the result of nature or nurture?” is “both.” (As with any theory, there will be those who disagree.) It’s safe to say that most believe that a child’s temperament – that distinct, natural way of being that all parents recognize – offers early signs of a genetic disposition toward a personality type or trait.
But it’s also likely that a child’s experiences in the world influence and add on to temperament to form the more enduring expressions of personality that we eventually see at an older age. With all of life’s influences at play in childhood, nailing down the trait during this time that’s likely to survive and dominate throughout adult life can be like shooting at a moving target.
Add to this the idea that children live life experimenting and trying fresh things out. And well they should, if they ever hope to develop into a grown-up. Consider what we typically call a “phase,” as in, “She’s just going through a phase.” Most likely, that is a period of experimentation that detours off the path of what the parents have customarily experienced with the child.
As with all experiments, it can either confirm something or deny something. So, as an example, if children are playing at being “gregarious” for a time, is that really what they will be most comfortable with all their lives? Does that show their Extraverted or Introverted trait preferences? What happens when the experiment is over? There are likely some enduring characteristics in place as a child progresses through childhood. Still, they may not be concrete, defining factors, because we don’t know how fluid a child’s personality might be and what neural pathways they may prune along the way.
Influencing the Final Product
Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist who studied child development, famously said, “Play is the work of childhood.” We tend to agree.
What Piaget was talking about wasn’t some game planned out by adults. He was talking about free-form play – when children happily take on inventing and directing people and situations straight out of their imaginations. This play is a rehearsal that prepares them for how they might respond to their worlds. (Often their play mimics what they have observed their parents or other adults do.) Play is just another way of experimenting to see what makes sense and works for them as unique beings.
But even the most well-meaning parent may unconsciously try to intervene if they feel too confident about what their child’s personality type should be. A parent of a child who wants to play superheroes with action figures may softly urge the child to read a science picture book, favoring reality instead of fantasy. Even if the child is assertive enough to reject the suggestion and continue to play with their caped champions of justice, they may still pick up the idea that something is wrong with them because of their choice.
We suggest giving children space and just observing them. As attentive parents, you will see the mystery of personality unfold, as your children blossom into whoever they will be. A personality test is likely to help guide someone later in life, but you need not test a child to master the job of parenting. Pay attention and allow your children to show you who they are. As a bonus, this loving approach can be quite exciting and satisfying.
Where to Go from Here
- While personality testing may not be suitable for children, it’s likely something that can bring more insights into your adult life. If you haven’t already taken our free test, we invite you to do so here.
- Our free profiles offer a starting point for understanding your personality type, including your parenting style. Check out our Premium Profiles and Academy for in-depth insights on parenting for each stage of child development.
- Read our article “Inheriting Personality Traits” for more thoughts on personality from the nature-or-nurture perspective.