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Origins of Adulthood Personality: The Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Listed author(s):
  • Fletcher, Jason M.

    ()

    (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

  • Schurer, Stefanie

    ()

    (University of Sydney)

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.

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File URL: http://ftp.iza.org/dp10538.pdf
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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 10538.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2017
Publication status: forthcoming in: B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 2017
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10538
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  1. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Susanne Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the technology of cognitive and noncognitive skill formation," CeMMAP working papers CWP09/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  2. Guido Heineck & Silke Anger, 2008. "The Returns to Cognitive Abilities and Personality Traits in Germany," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 836, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  3. Heckman, James J. & Kautz, Tim, 2012. "Hard evidence on soft skills," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 451-464.
  4. Fletcher, Jason M., 2013. "The effects of personality traits on adult labor market outcomes: Evidence from siblings," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 122-135.
  5. Shelly Lundberg, 2013. "The College Type: Personality and Educational Inequality," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(3), pages 421-441.
  6. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Salamanca, Nicolas & Zhu, Anna, 2016. "Parenting Style as an Investment in Human Development," IZA Discussion Papers 9686, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. John Bound & Gary Solon, 1998. "Double Trouble: On the Value of Twins-Based Estimation of the Return to Schooling," NBER Working Papers 6721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Costas Meghir & Orazio Attanasio & Sarah Cattan & Emla Fitzsimons & Marta Rubio-Codina, 2015. "Estimating the Production Function for Human Capital: Results from a Randomized Control Trial in Colombia," Working Papers 1046, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  9. Orazio Attanasio & Sarah Cattan & Emla Fitzsimons & Costas Meghir & Marta Rubio Codina, 2015. "Estimating the production function for human capital: results from a randomized controlled trial in Colombia," IFS Working Papers W15/06, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  10. Janet Currie & Erdal Tekin, 2012. "Understanding the Cycle: Childhood Maltreatment and Future Crime," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 47(2), pages 509-549.
  11. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman, 2008. "Formulating, Identifying and Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(4).
  12. Fletcher, Jason M. & Green, Jeremy C. & Neidell, Matthew J., 2010. "Long term effects of childhood asthma on adult health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 377-387, May.
  13. Gerrit Mueller & Erik Plug, 2006. "Estimating the Effect of Personality on Male and Female Earnings," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 60(1), pages 3-22, October.
  14. Schurer, Stefanie & Kassenboehmer, Sonja C. & Leung, Felix, 2015. "Do Universities Shape Their Students' Personality?," IZA Discussion Papers 8873, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Fletcher, Jason M., 2011. "The medium term schooling and health effects of low birth weight: Evidence from siblings," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 517-527, June.
  16. repec:iae:iaewps:wp2016n3 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Fletcher, Jason M., 2009. "Childhood mistreatment and adolescent and young adult depression," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(5), pages 799-806, March.
  18. Gensowski, Miriam, 2014. "Personality, IQ, and Lifetime Earnings," IZA Discussion Papers 8235, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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