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Parental educational attainment and adult offspring personality

Title: Parental educational attainment and adult offspring personality: An intergenerational life span approach to the origin of adult personality traits.
Name(s): Sutin, Angelina R, author
Luchetti, Martina, author
Stephan, Yannick, author
Robins, Richard W, author
Terracciano, Antonio, author
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Journal Article
Date Issued: 2017-07-01
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Why do some individuals have more self-control or are more vulnerable to stress than others? Where do these basic personality traits come from? Although a fundamental question in personality, more is known about how traits are related to important life outcomes than their developmental origins. The present research took an intergenerational life span approach to address whether a significant aspect of the childhood environment-parental educational attainment-was associated with offspring personality traits in adulthood. We tested the association between parents' educational levels and adult offspring personality traits in 7 samples (overall age range 14-95) and meta-analytically combined the results (total N > 60,000). Parents with more years of education had children who were more open, extraverted, and emotionally stable as adults. These associations were small but consistent, of similar modest magnitude to the association between life events and change in personality in adulthood, and were also supported by longitudinal analyses. Contrary to expectations, parental educational attainment was unrelated to offspring Conscientiousness, except for a surprisingly negative association in the younger cohorts. The results were similar in a subsample of participants who were adopted, which suggested that environmental mechanisms were as relevant as shared genetic variants. Participant levels of education were associated with greater conscientiousness, emotional stability, extraversion, and openness and partially mediated the relation between parent education and personality. Child IQ and family income were also partial mediators. The results of this research suggest that parental educational attainment is 1 intergenerational factor associated with offspring personality development in adulthood. (PsycINFO Database Record
Identifier: FSU_pmch_28287753 (IID), 10.1037/pspp0000137 (DOI), PMC5472504 (PMCID), 28287753 (RID), 28287753 (EID), 2017-11240-001 (PII)
Grant Number: P01 HD031921, U01 AG009740, R01 AG053297, R03 AG051960, P01 AG020166, U19 AG051426
Publication Note: This NIH-funded author manuscript originally appeared in PubMed Central at
Subject(s): Adolescent
Adult Children/psychology
Aged, 80 and over
Educational Status
Longitudinal Studies
Middle Aged
Personality Development
Young Adult
Persistent Link to This Record:
Host Institution: FSU
Is Part Of: Journal of personality and social psychology.
Issue: iss. 1, vol. 113

Choose the citation style.
Sutin, A. R., Luchetti, M., Stephan, Y., Robins, R. W., & Terracciano, A. (2017). Parental educational attainment and adult offspring personality: An intergenerational life span approach to the origin of adult personality traits. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology. Retrieved from