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Health Psychol. 2007 Jan;26(1):121-5.

Mechanisms by which childhood personality traits influence adult health status: educational attainment and healthy behaviors.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, School of Human Science, University of Surrey and Oregon Research Institute, Guilford, United Kingdom.



The purpose of this study was to test a life span health behavior model in which educational attainment and health behaviors (eating habits, smoking, and physical activity) were hypothesized as mechanisms to account for relations between teacher ratings of childhood personality traits and self-reported health status at midlife.


The model was tested on 1,054 members of the Hawaii Personality and Health cohort, which is a population-based cohort participating in a longitudinal study of personality and health spanning 40 years from childhood to midlife.


Childhood Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Intellect-Imagination influenced adult health status indirectly through educational attainment, healthy eating habits, and smoking. Several direct effects of childhood traits on health behaviors and health status were also observed.


The model extends past associations found between personality traits and health behaviors or health status by identifying a life-course pathway based on the health behavior model through which early childhood traits influence adult health status. The additional direct effects of personality traits indicate that health behavior mechanisms may not provide a complete account of relations between personality and health.

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