Families & the Community

Classmates Better Predictors of Peers’ Later Success, Study Says

By Julie Rasicot — October 01, 2012 2 min read
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If you want to find out whether your children will lead successful lives, just ask their elementary school friends.

That’s the conclusion of a recent study published online by researchers from Quebec’s Concordia University, who discovered during 20 years of observation that classmates can “more accurately predict adulthood success than self-evaluation,” according to the university. (A link to the full study could not be found.)

As part of the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project that began in 1976, researchers asked Montreal students in 1st, 3rd and 7th grades to evaluate themselves and their peers for aggression, likability, and social withdrawal.

Researchers then closely followed the kids for 20 years, and surveyed nearly 700 of them again between 1999 and 2003, rating them on adult personality traits that included extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, according to the university.

They found that those childhood classmates knew their friends pretty well.

“We found the evaluations from the group of peers were much more closely associated with eventual adult outcomes than were their own personality perceptions from childhood,” Alexa Martin-Storey, study co-author and a Concordia graduate who’s a post-doctoral student at the University of Texas, said in a story on the university’s website. “This makes sense, since children are around their peers all day and behaviors like aggressiveness and likability are extremely relevant in the school environment.”

Classmates who were rated as likable by their peers grew up to be more agreeable and conscientious, and less neurotic than those who had rated themselves as likable, the study found. And kids who had described themselves as socially withdrawn were less conscientious as adults, while kids whose peers had judged them to be socially withdrawn were more introverted as adults.

Study co-author Lisa Serbin of the Concordia University’s Department of Psychology suggested that the study findings could be useful in finding ways to work on those childhood personality traits that may impact such things as mental health and job satisfaction in adults.

“The information from our study could be used to promote better longitudinal outcomes for children by helping kids and parents develop effective mechanisms for addressing aggressive or socially withdrawn behaviors and promoting more pro-social behavior,” she said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.