Could your personality type affect the way you raise children, whether you embrace the stay-at-home lifestyle, or even how many children you have? Are your innate preferences shaping the roles you play in family life in ways you don't even realize? Has personality influenced your decision whether to have children at all?
If you've studied the personality theory developed by Isabel Briggs Myers, you've probably noticed that, according to most researchers, our personality has a lot to do with how we parent. Dutiful ESFJs and ISFJs are often painted as devoted family members, the types most likely to keep the home fires burning. Other personalities, including ENTJs and ESTJs, are described as ambitious career climbers with little patience for taming the family zoo.
But do these type stereotypes hold up to scrutiny? Are ENTJs really more likely to be corporate powerhouses while ISFJs tend hearth and home? With the help of thousands of men and women, the responses to three separate questionnaires designed to reveal the participants' attitudes towards parenthood, and the free TypeFinder personality type assessment on our website, we decided to find out. The three big takeaways, summarized below, show a fascinating correlation between personality and the way we choose to parent.
1. Feelers are much more likely to want children than Thinkers. And some personality types would rather not take the parenting plunge at all.
Around 14 percent of Americans reach the age of 45 without having children, and those who prefer a child-free lifestyle are often regarded as a curiosity. A wide range of explanations have been put forward for the increasing rate of childlessness, including a rise in the number of career opportunities available to women and changes in the perceived costs of child-rearing.
However, we suspected that personality may influence an individual's decision to remain child-free—and we were right. When we looked at the breeding attitudes of 10,643 women and 5,152 men, we found that Thinkers were 62 percent more likely than Feelers to say that they didn't want children, either now or in the future.
To look at this another way, we analyzed the average number of children our respondents had according to their personality type. Feelers tend to have significantly larger families than Thinkers; 2.12 kids on average compared to a Thinker's 2.02.
INTJs take the prize for the most reluctant parents. A full one-third of our INTJ respondents reported that they neither had nor wanted children, and those that already had kids showed significantly lower-than-average levels of satisfaction with their parenting role. As one INTJ respondent told us, "So far, I have no kids. I wanted to have many when I was a child myself, but now I have the feeling that as a parent, I would have to give up most of the things that I really like and would have to lead a boring life with few intellectual challenges and a lot of repetition."
2. INFP parents are significantly more likely to leave the workforce and stay at home with the kids.
Overwhelmingly, INFP mothers are more likely than any other personality type to trade work for childcare duties. Almost 30 percent of our INFP moms said they were joyfully embracing the stay-at-home lifestyle, against an average of 21.9 percent across all personality types. ISFJs, ESFPs, ISTJs and ISFPs were also more likely to report that they were currently staying at home to raise their families.
NT mothers, by contrast, are statistically less likely to stop working when the kids come along, with ENTJ women in particular saying that they would prefer their partners to be the primary caregiver.
The one anomaly is INTP women; although they are less likely than average to say they want children, when they do have them, they are more likely to parent full-time. While we do not know the reason for this inconsistency, we do know that INTP women tend to earn lower salaries on average. It's fair to infer that an INTP's decision to stay home could be more about financial necessity than desire.
What about dads? Because the sample of stay-at-home fathers was too small to draw any meaningful conclusions, we asked our male respondents whether they theoretically would be willing to swap their career for full-time diaper duty. Once again, INFP men came out on top—a staggering 83.4 percent of INFP respondents said they would be willing to be a stay-at-home dad.
This data suggests some interesting conclusions when it comes to compatibility. Perhaps career-focused ENTJ women would do well to pair up with INFP men, who by and large seem very willing to embrace the stay-at-home lifestyle.
3. Extraverts are more likely to say that they are good parents, and give themselves greater kudos for a job well done.
We gave our respondents a series of statements about parenting (for example, "I think my child would consider me a good parent," and "I am happy with my parenting skills"), and asked them to rate their level of agreement on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). In almost every instance, Extraverts expressed higher levels of parental satisfaction than Introverted types.
Does this mean that Extraverts are somehow happier and more suited to child rearing? Well, maybe... but maybe not. Studies have repeatedly shown that extraverts are more likely to express positive emotions in general; we can therefore expect them to score more highly than introverts on emotional measures such as happiness and joy.
In fact, our ESTJ and ESFJ respondents consistently gave higher ratings than other personality types across a range of questions. That these types are confident in their parenting ability is consistent with their type descriptions—both ESTJs and ESFJs are typically described as dutiful, traditional, and family-oriented, all qualities that may make them feel particularly suited to a parenting role.
Love this research? For all the nuts-and-bolts details, read the full text of the Personality Type and Parenting research report. And if you like what we have to say, we'd love it if you would share the infographic and spread the word!