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Childhood temperament can provide windows into their future personalities

The behaviors and personality your children show now could tell us what they’ll be like as an adult, but some of those behaviors can put them at greater risk of developing anxiety and depression.

Experts say there are ways you can help your child overcome these issues early in life.

Ariadna Reis said that her son has always been social, even when he was an infant. Her daughter has a different story.

“She always pretended that she was sleeping, so when you see her, it was like, ‘Oh, she fell asleep, she’s taking a nap.’ And she was just avoiding every social situation.”

New research found that difficulty making social connections could last one’s entire life.

Dr. Nathan Fox, with the University of Maryland, tracked a group of children aged 14 months to 26 years.

He said their social ease – or their uneasiness – continued into adulthood.

“It was the kids who were more sensitive to errors and more hyper-monitoring their behavior that were going on to be socially anxious,” he said.

Still, he said the social anxiety didn’t affect other areas of their lives. Even the “socially anxious” had successful careers and marriages.

How can you help your children?

“We want to make sure that the kids are not impaired, that their social lives are not miserable,” Fox said. “If some of these temperamentally fearful kids go into daycare with other peers early in life, they become less fearful over time.”

“I think that’s one of the biggest things that we can teach children in early childhood is how to get along with others, how to be a friend,” said Bronwyn Gogia, director of Assessment and Screening at the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida.

Reis agrees and said social activities made a huge difference for her daughter.

“She became the social butterfly. When we came home like in March, because you know they couldn’t go to school anymore, she was devastated and we’re like, ‘We created a monster.'”

Fox said signs your child might be hyper-vigilant and fearful include clinging to their parents in new situations, a lack of interest in exploring new places, and an unwillingness to approach new people.

RESOURCES

Study: Infant Temperament Predicts Personality More Than 20 Years Later

Infant behavioral inhibition predicts personality and social outcomes three decades later

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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