Your outlook in life is forged in childhood

A new study published in the recent issue of the Journal of Personality finds a correlation between adult pessimism and childhood in a low socioeconomic status (SES) family. By connecting socioeconomic status to pessimism, which in turn has in earlier studies shown to be related to physical and mental health, the current study provides critical information for policy makers and parents concerned with preventing the development of less adaptive coping strategies of children

Researchers compared optimism and pessimism levels of participants from different socioeconomic backgrounds and found that persons of high SES had a more optimistic outlook on life. Further, it was discovered that the effect of childhood socioeconomic status on pessimism tended to remain in spite of socioeconomic fluidity. A person from a low SES childhood who moved upwards in status was less likely to be optimistic as an adult than someone from a high SES childhood who remained in high SES. The inverse also held true, as people from a high SES childhood who moved downwards in socioeconomic status were more optimistic than those who remained in low SES.

"Children from the higher SES classes who are subsequently downwardly mobile may have learned successful coping strategies during childhood and consequently developed a sense of mastery and control that protected them in adulthood from the adverse effects of lower SES, whereas children from lower SES backgrounds who are subsequently upwardly mobile may not have had the opportunities to develop those psychological resources, and thus are not able to benefit as much as possible from the later success experiences," concludes the study's lead author.

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This study was published in the August issue of the Journal of Personality . Media wishing to receive a PDF, please contact JournalNews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net

Journal of Personality publishes scientific investigations in the field of personality. It focuses particularly on personality and behavior dynamics, personality development, and individual differences in the cognitive, affective, and interpersonal domains.

Lead author Kati Heinonen, Ph.D is a researcher in Department of Psychology at University of Helsinki. She is available for comment and may be contacted.

Blackwell Publishing is the world's leading society publisher, partnering with 665 academic and professional societies. Blackwell publishes over 800 journals and, to date, has published more than 6,000 books, across a wide range of academic, medical, and professional subjects.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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