Inconsistent and very weak evidence for a direct association between childhood personality and adult ideology

Journal of Personality
childhood personality
adult ideology
Conceptual Replication of childhood personality–adult ideology link

Neil Fasching


August 22, 2023


Objective We add depth and breadth to the study of the childhood personality–adult ideology link with additional data, measures, and measurement approaches.

Background Past research in (political) psychology has put forward that individual differences in psychological needs shape ideology. Most evidence supporting this claim is cross-sectional. Two previous longitudinal studies showed preliminary evidence that childhood personality traits linked to negativity bias correlate with political ideology in adulthood, yet these studies have limitations.

Methods We report the results from two longitudinal studies (combined N = 13,822) conducted in the United Kingdom that measure childhood personality (5–11 years old) and political ideology from puberty (age 16) to early (age 26) and middle adulthood (age 42).

Results We find very weak and inconsistent evidence that childhood personality traits related to negativity bias are directly associated with general conservatism, social conservatism, or economic conservatism across different stages of adulthood. Across the board, Bayes Factors most often indicate strong evidence for the null hypothesis.

Conclusion We offer evidence that the results of previous research are not as robust or as consistent as scholars in the extant literature presume. Our findings call for more, not less, research on the link between childhood personality and political ideology.

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