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Childhood Friends Can Forecast Adult Success

New research has revealed your childhood friends probably had a better handle on your success as an adult than you did.

A new study reveals that childhood peer evaluation of classmate’s personalities can more accurately predict adulthood success than self-evaluation at that age.

The study, known as the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project, was started in 1976. Over two years, Montreal students in grades one, four and seven completed peer evaluations of their classmates and rated them in terms of aggression, likeability and social withdrawal. The students also did self-evaluations, said Dr. Lisa Serbin at Concordia University, who conducted the study with Dr. Alexa Martin-Storey.

Over the next 20 years, these children were closely followed as researchers tracked their progress into adulthood. A follow-up survey was conducted between 1999 and 2003 with nearly 700 of the participants from the initial study. The survey included measurements of adult personality traits, such as levels of neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

“We were able to compare peer and self-perceptions of the childhood behaviors to these adult personality factors,” said Martin-Storey.

“We found the evaluations from the group of peers were much more closely associated with eventual adult outcomes than were their own personality perceptions from childhood. This makes sense, since children are around their peers all day and behaviors like aggressiveness and likeability are extremely relevant in the school environment.”

For example, children who perceived themselves as socially withdrawn exhibited less conscientiousness as adults, while kids whose peers perceived them as socially withdrawn grew up to exhibit lower levels of extraversion — a more accurate association, according to the researchers.

Peer-perceived likeability also predicted a more accurate outcome, associating the personality trait with higher levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness, and lower levels of neuroticism than those who thought of themselves as likeable.

Overall, the findings supported the use of peer rather than self-ratings of childhood personalities in the prediction of adulthood success, the researchers claim.

“Adult personality traits are associated with a lot of important life factors, such as health, mental health and occupational satisfaction,” said Serbin.

“The information from our study could be used to promote better longitudinal outcomes for children by helping kids and parents develop effective mechanisms for addressing aggressive or socially withdrawn behaviors and promoting more prosocial behavior.”

Source: Concordia University

Childhood Friends Can Forecast Adult Success

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). Childhood Friends Can Forecast Adult Success. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 22 Sep 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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