Describing the fruit of his 30-year research on shyness as “the most exciting,” Starch Professor of Psychology Jerome Kagan believes that a child’s tendency for shyness is an inherited biological trait.
In fact, it can even be detected in children as young as four months old.
What this basically means is that if you and your spouse have introverted tendencies, chances are your children will be born with the same predisposition.
Thankfully, this is not a sentence; things can change.
“One of the most significant discoveries of Kagan’s work is that shyness in children is a non-deterministic character trait,” says a Harvard Crimson article.
He also discovered that there are ways to alleviate it in one’s childhood years with the help of certain environmental factors. However, his research shows that uninhibited children were less likely to show behavioural changes.
“If we put shy children in an environment where a set behaviour can be transformed early, shyness can be attenuated,” says Professor of Education Howard E. Gardner. “No one is marked at birth.”
In her Parent Herald story, Lani Lane agrees: she has always been an introvert growing up, tearing up as soon as someone comes up to her to ask something or to simply speak.
“I am most affected by my teachers,” she says. “I have just three close friends but most of the time, I enjoy myself alone in the house.”
This attitude remained until she finished college, and the sudden change of environment from the one she’s used to changed her social skills.
“I am the opposite of who I am before. I can socialise with any person of any age from toddlers to senior citizens. I still am introvert at some degree but it is totally balanced now. I do not fear people anymore unlike before. I would agree that being an introvert is inherited but not permanent.”
Professor Jerome Kagan says that his 30-year study ushers in a new frontier in research.
“There are many next steps [to my research],” he says. “There is genetics, [as well as] determining what it is that can change the disposition of a child.”
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