'Contagious' Personality Traits in Kids

Behind the parents stands the school, and behind the teacher the home. True, definitely. But surprisingly, children even as young as preschool tend to get influenced by their peer group to a great extent. A recent study carried out by the Michigan State University and published in the prestigious Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has established what we have assumed all along – it is not just genes that do their bit in shaping a child’s personality; the environment and people around them have a considerable effect on how they turn out to be as individuals too.
Play” by johnhain is licensed under CC by 2.0

Jennifer Watling Neal, co-investigator of the study and associate professor of psychology put it like this: “Our finding, that personality traits are ‘contagious’ among children, flies in the face of common assumptions that personality is ingrained and can’t be changed. This is important because some personality traits can help children succeed in life, while others can hold them back.”

So while parents like us might try our best to inculcate the values of, say, patience in our preschoolers, don’t be taken aback if your little one turns out to be exactly the opposite. It’s probably just their 3-or-4-year-old peers unknowingly acting as change agents and being impatient around them :)

The Benefits of Keeping Pets

Pets are akin to family. In fact, pets are family in a way. Be it a furry cat rubbing her face against yours, a warm puppy with those beseeching eyes that warm the cockles of one’s heart, or just a tiny little goldfish swimming around in its aquarium, once a pet enters your home, it becomes a member of the family. Agreed, it is fun to keep pets at home – especially if you have kids to play with them – but then it is also a big responsibility, more so if it is one of those friendly four-legged creatures. My kids have been pestering me for a doggy pet, but till I’m actually ready for it, I guess they’ll just have to make do with their pet games and feed their virtual pets. My better half is all for it, but I’m not too sure… yet.

Chihuahua” by Teerasuwat is licensed under CC by 2.0

The husband suggested that I should read more about the pros and cons of having a pet dog at home the other day and the fact is that the pros did seem to far outweigh the cons. This post is perhaps my way of trying to convince myself to take the plunge. Here are the two points which stood out over the umpteen others in the favor of pets.

Companionship & Responsibility
Pets offer a special kind of companionship to kids, which is a step ahead of the companions their peer group and friends are, since pets generally accompany kids all the time they are at home. In turn, children tend to become more responsible when they have a pet to look after. Sheryl Dickstein, Director of Humane Education at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had this to say: “As kids age and take on more of the care for the pet, it helps to build self-confidence in them.” The feeling of being ‘grown-up’ enough to be entrusted with a pet can do wonders to the self-confidence in a child, in turn inculcating a sense of responsibility and care in them towards the creatures.

Building Family Bonds
Walking the dog can be a wonderful way to bond with young kids, with the leash in your child’s hand and her feeling she’s in control. We have neighbors whose weekend ritual is to give their dog a thorough bath in the garden – each family member has to do his or her job – one runs the water in the tub, the other puts in shampoo, and it takes the rest of the two members to coax the poor dog who hates baths to gingerly step into the tub. I must admit, sometimes I do envy the fun they seem to be having going about this weekly chore of sorts; there’s laughter, screams, splashes and bonhomie all around. Pets somehow force the family members to do nothing except spend some time playing around with them doing nothing; and it is this ‘nothing’ which is pretty hard to come by in these rushed times, which brings the family members closer together doing something they love.

Gosh, I read through what I have written above and seem to be almost head over heels in the same league as the kids and their daddy! If any of you (who don’t already have pets of course) are still in the mood for dilly-dallying or aren’t particularly convinced, go through the results of this study recently conducted in the University of Cambridge in the UK. It categorically states:
‘Children reported having stronger relationships with their pets than their siblings, as well as lower levels of conflict – these results were particularly seen in kids with dogs.'

Who knows, my kids might just miraculously start bonding more with each other if they have an affectionate pet to look after between the two of them!



I am an assistant teacher and my aim is to curate unique learning tips and techniques customized towards kids.

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