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Origins of Adulthood Personality: The Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Author

Listed:
  • Fletcher, Jason M.

    () (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

  • Schurer, Stefanie

    () (University of Sydney)

Abstract

We test whether adverse childhood experiences – exposure to parental maltreatment and its indirect effect on health – are associated with age 30 personality traits. We use rich longitudinal data from a large, representative cohort of young US Americans and exploit differences across siblings to control for the confounding influences of shared environmental and genetic factors. We find that maltreatment experiences are significantly and robustly associated with neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness to experience, but not with agreeableness and extraversion. High levels of neuroticism are linked to sexual abuse and neglect; low levels of conscientiousness and openness to experience are linked to parental neglect. The estimated associations are significantly reduced in magnitude when controlling for physical or mental health, suggesting that adolescent health could be one important pathway via which maltreatment affects adulthood personality. Maltreatment experiences, in combination with their health effects, explain a significant fraction of the relationship between adulthood conscientiousness and earnings or human capital. Our findings provide a possible explanation for why personality traits are important predictors of adulthood labor market outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Fletcher, Jason M. & Schurer, Stefanie, 2017. "Origins of Adulthood Personality: The Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences," IZA Discussion Papers 10538, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10538
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Orazio Attanasio & Sarah Cattan & Emla Fitzsimons & Costas Meghir & Marta Rubio-Codina, 2015. "Estimating the Production Function for Human Capital: Results from a Randomized Control Trial in Colombia," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1987, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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    Cited by:

    1. Clark, Andrew E. & Lee, Tom, 2017. "Early-Life Correlates of Later-Life Well-Being: Evidence from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study," IZA Discussion Papers 11135, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Clark, Andrew E. & Lee, Tom, 2017. "Early-life correlates of later-life well-being: evidence from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86608, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Elkins, Rosemary & Schurer, Stefanie, 2018. "Exploring the Role of Fathers in Non-Cognitive Skill Development over the Lifecourse," IZA Discussion Papers 11451, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Schurer, Stefanie & Trajkovski, Kristian, 2018. "Understanding the Mechanisms through Which Adverse Childhood Experiences Affect Lifetime Economic Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 11450, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    human capital; noncognitive skills; Big Five personality traits; adverse childhood experiences; maltreatment; Add Health; siblings-fixed effects;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General

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