Origins of Adulthood Personality: The Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences

49 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2017

See all articles by Jason M. Fletcher

Jason M. Fletcher

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs; Yale University - School of Public Health

Stefanie Schurer

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Economics and Finance

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.

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

JEL Classification: J24, J13, I0

Suggested Citation

Fletcher, Jason M. and Schurer, Stefanie, Origins of Adulthood Personality: The Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10538. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2911476

Jason M. Fletcher (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs ( email )

1180 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1393
United States

Yale University - School of Public Health ( email )

PO Box 208034
60 College Street
New Haven, CT 06520-8034
United States

Stefanie Schurer

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Economics and Finance ( email )

P.O. Box 600
Wellington 6001
New Zealand
+64-4-4636708 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sef/staff/stefanie-schurer.aspx

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