Mothers prefer children to be showboaters rather than Einsteins, survey says

Intelligence is low down on the list of personality traits mothers would most like to see in their children, a survey has shown.

Rather than raising a little genius, the majority of mothers hope for a child who is the life and soul of the party, researchers found.

Of 142 British mothers polled, just 10% rated intelligence as the most important child characteristic.

More than half (51%) put extroversion, the trait that describes people who are sociable and outgoing, at the top of their preferences.

Conscientiousness was even less valued than intelligence, with just 9% of mothers citing this as the number one trait.

A fifth of the mothers voted for "agreeableness".

Lead researcher Dr Sophie von Stumm, a senior lecturer in psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, said: "Given that higher levels of intelligence and conscientiousness are both linked to positive life outcomes such as success at school, at work, and in relationships, it's surprising that only one in 10 mothers valued them as the most important characteristics for their child.

"While extroversion can have many benefits it is also associated with negative behaviours in adulthood, such as higher alcohol consumption and illegal drug use.

"Understanding how mothers view personality is vital as their values influence their parenting and, through this, how their child's personality traits develop."

The findings are reported in the journal Personality And Individual Differences.

For the study, mothers were asked to choose from the "big five" personality traits recognised by psychologists, extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism and openness to new experiences.

A 10th picked openness as the most important trait while none picked neuroticism.

Co-author Dr Rachel Latham, also from Goldsmiths, said: "We focused on the views of mothers, as they typically spend more time with their children than fathers, but it would be useful to examine the personality values of fathers too.

"It would also be interesting to examine if mothers' preference for extroversion changes over time as children grow older and enter formal education.

"In the long run we hope studies such as these can help us to understand how parents' values shape a child's personality and how this impacts on how children develop and learn and their future health, happiness, and success."

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