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Moms Talk: What's Your Baby's Personality?

Dianna Graveman |15, February 2012


Moms Talk: What's Your Baby's Personality?

Experts and medical professionals generally agree that some personality traits may begin to emerge in a newborn within the first several weeks or months after birth. But the real experts (new moms) will almost always tell you they recognized some characteristics of their newborns' personalities at birth or soon after. Maybe it's because they've had nine months to get to know their little one. If this baby isn't the first child, a mother may compare how often and how vigorously a baby moved or kicked within the womb, how quickly after birth the baby nursed, even how loud and long he squalled for the first time. Of course, a lot of these outcomes are based on the birth experience of both mother and baby, the gestational age of the baby, whether or not he is premature, and other factors.

Much conversation takes place in the early months about the baby's emerging personality, as parents attempt to predict what type of child and adult their baby will become. How often do those predictions hold true? When does a baby's true personality begin to really make itself known?

While some elements of a child's personality may depend on genetics, some psychologists believe it also depends largely on his or her environment and even on birth order, a theory first proposed by psychiatrist Alfred Adler (1870-1937). Others don't believe birth order matters as much as family size.

But with that first child, what can a parent look for in the early months to determine possible personality traits? Most surveys ask about fussiness, fear of strangers, sleep habits, etc., and certainly those behaviors seem to differ between babies.

Nine-month-old Amita is fussiest right before her nap; no surprise there. But Loralee's 20-month-old gets what her mother calls the "mid-afternoon blues" between 3:30 and 5:00 p.m. Sherrie remembers her grown son Andrew was very fussy all the time, while his younger brother, Sal, never fussed at all.

One-year-old Madelyn Leigh likes people, unless they have facial hair! But she will always reach out for Mom or Dad if they are in the room. Amita feels no "stranger-danger," and Loralee's little one doesn't like strangers at all. Little Sal made it his mission to win over strangers, while his brother Andrew tolerated strangers, at best.

Amita doesn't have much of a temper, but will screech if unhappy. Sherrie remembers that Sal never got angry as a baby; he saw life as a challenge he would win, while Andrew was determined to get his way and was very vocal about it. Loralee's baby girl only has melt-downs when her needs aren't met--totally age-expected, Mom says. Madelyn Leigh is very protective of her toys and lets her big sister know it!

Summing up a baby's or toddler's personality is tough for any parent, but can they do it in just three words? Not only can they, but the same words show up again and again. Not surprisingly, most parents describe their very young children as "loving," "happy," or "determined," or some combination of the three. And all the moms who offered their experiences for this article say that at least one of their babies' personalities more closely match theirs than their spouses. That could change as the babies grow, of course.

Laura says 9-month-old Amita is happy, loving, and playful. She is more like her mom at this age than her dad, but Laura thinks there are definitely more changes coming.

Loralee says her 20-month-old is determined, cuddly, and independent, more like her than her husband. She was able to determine pretty early that her little girl likes to "jump into things and then figure them out." Her personality has not changed much since birth. She loves her sleep, loves to be in a group of people, and enjoys a good meal.

Madelyn Leigh, at one year, is happy, playful, and loving. She is always on the go--a busy little lady. "She is me!" her mom says.

And what about the two grown brothers, Sal and Andrew? Sherrie remembers both boys as happy, determined, and loving. Sal was more like her (although her husband may disagree, she says), while older brother Andrew's personality was a blend of both parents'. But while Sherrie's predictions for Sal held true as an adult ("He is a very hard worker and has clear goals that drive him"), son Andrew was a bit of a surprise. "He's always been very head strong and determined. A happy and funny kid, but driven to be in control," Sherrie says. Today, he owns his own business and is respected by his eployees. "Funny!" Sherrie says. "When he was little, I didn't think he'd ever get anyone to work for him."

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