Could Your Personality Type Predict Your Parenting Style?16 January 2017 / By Truity
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!
I am now an old man. I never had children and I do not think that I missed anything.
I spent six years as a young man teaching children in secondary schools in England (ages 11-18). It is difficult to motivate children to learn. I am an introvert anyway, with excellent written skills but hardly an inspiring conversationalist. I wasn't that good a teacher, except with studious, self-motivated kids who wanted the facts and nothing but the facts (a good area for ISTJs to find themselves - I have a multitude of facts in my head).
I have also got high standards. Behavioural problems arising, kids who cannot concentrate for five minutes, kids who are not interested in learning, kids who are intent upon disruptive .... How do you deal with these things?
And if you have those problems in a school situation how would you handle it at home with your own child? It didn't sound like fun to me, it didn't sound like anything enjoyable.
Yes, my kid(s) might have been intelligent, pleasant, hard-working (they better had been!). Then again. There are no guarantees.
And as a teacher I wouldn't like to recall some of the very bright, intelligent, industrious 11 and 12-year-olds, often from very middle-class backgrounds, who "turned bad" when they got to the age of 15! The boy who started doing drugs and failed all the exams he couldn't have failed to pass at the age of 12. The very middle class girl from a very good home who got pregnant at the age of 14 because all her friends were "doing sex"!
And then if you have a child who is doing all the right things and starts being bullied incessantly because he/she is a "goody-two-shoes" (and I have seen that close up. The parents were at a total loss as to what they could do).
No. In a world where possessing the facts and being a logical thinker count for increasingly little as the world moves towards one extreme or the other - no!
I have made a number of bad decisions in my life (as well as a lot of good ones). For me personally (this does not apply to everyone) not having children was definitely the right decision!
Mary1245 (not verified) says...
I agree with you and as an INTJ female I'm amazed at the fervor that some F types pursue in having "babies." I've met women who have spent huge dollars on IVF and are emotional wrecks when they are unsuccessful in maintaining a pregnancy. It almost seems as if 90% of their self identity is connected to being a parent. They don't seem to be able to move on and do something alternatively interesting with their lives. I have two 30 something male friends who are under huge pressure from their partners to have children. One is an ESTJ and he has no interest whatsoever and doesn't even like to be in the same room as children. He loves his life which is packed with work, studying for a degree and about a dozen outdoor sports like hiking, surfing, scuba diving, etc. The other is an ISFJ and he loves children and would be a great parent. But he told me that he cannot justify bringing a child into a world where there are already too many children and too many unwanted children. He said he would rather take in an already existing child that needs a good home and guidance. However,his ENFP partner is adamant that she must have her own baby. She's not a selfish person, but this position flies in the face of reason and logic. Her own childhood was a nightmare being raised by a single, drug addicted mother who subjected her and her siblings to horrible poverty and depravation. The only thing I can figure is she wants to "prove" she can do a better job than her own mother. My ESTJ friends partner has left him because having a child is a "deal-breaker" for her. It's so sad because they are in every other way so suited to each other and he is heartbroken. Very odd that some people rank having a child so high that they will turn their lives upside down. From my perspective this drive might be partly powered by hormones. Our bodies trick us into having children as part of keeping the species alive, even though at times it makes no logical sense. And then what is sadder is many of these people who were so fanatic about having children end up with children who are spoiled, selfish and treat their parents like dirt, breaking their hearts. I worked in employee benefits for a number of years and much of the emotional wreckage was due to children that were ruining their parents retirement plans.
Amanda, INFJ (not verified) says...
I find it pretty interesting that INTPs ranked the lowest in 5 of 12 categories in the "Joys and Frustrations" segment of the assessment, yet don't have & do want children more than do INTJs, who score the highest in not having & not wanting children. INTPs do come second (right after INTJs) in the "don't have, don't want" category, but I gather that INTJs are more likely to have the "everything-went-better-than-expected" experience with parenthood than will INTPs.
Thanks for the infographics! Very intriguing to assess!
MarthaH (not verified) says...
I am an INTP mom and spent 15 years homeschooling my 2 children who are now, (praise God!) launched, married, and in careers of their choice. There were times when I thought I would pull out all my hair, and used to threaten them in the heat of the moment that if they did not want to meet deadlines at home, then I would gladly return them to public school where they would have to sit in a desk and meet deadlines. They survived; I survived, and both my son and my daughter still love me. It took every piece of experience, education (I was an English major in college) as well as God's grace, to still to it that long. I'm so glad I did, and they are too.
Saja (not verified) says...
This is a fascinating article. The Joys & Frustrations section is particularly interesting to me, as I think I would've answered the questions differently depending on where I was in the parenting life cycle. My sense of accomplishment and ability was very different when the children were babies & toddlers as opposed to now with the youngest a senior in high school. For example, I spent most of the children's younger years feeling rather inadequate and mistake prone. Now that the youngest is about to leave home, I am loving my relationship with each of them & feel that, despite all my errors (which I have logged & am happy to provide to their therapists, to make the process more efficient & less costly) my children are lovely people to be around and each has a good sense of self, so I believe that each child will find their path in life.... I also want to confirm the findings that, for me, being a stay-at-home mom was a privilege and a necessity. I simply couldn't think of any other way to be a mom. And I am an INFP / ENFP.
I'm FiNe (not verified) says...
My best fit type is INFP. My wife's type is ESFJ. When our first daughter was born, my wife had a reliable job that she enjoyed, that paid well, and that offered good benefits. I was between jobs (and I'm still not sure what I should do when I grow up). It made sense for me to stop looking for work as the birth day was pending and simply concentrate on becoming the stay-at-home parent. I was able to be a stay-at-home dad for 2+ years until my wife lost her job and took a new one at roughly 60% of her previous pay and reduced benefits (especially health insurance). Finances forced me back into the workplace. I highly prize the time I had raising our first, interacting on a daily basis with her, sharing the wonder of the world around her. It was the best job I've ever had though the pay was lousy.
I would offer that my ESFJ wife would probably have loved the chance to stay home for at least a year with either/both of our daughters.
I know a family with an INTJ dad and ESFJ mom. They have 5 children of their own (ages range from College grad to elementary school), have hosted numerous foster children, and recently were able to adopt their most recent foster child. Whereas the big family may not seem abnormal for the ESFJ mom (a pediatrician who sees part of her calling as being a mother of many children), the INTJ dad loves their large family, too. He is and has always been an active parent within his family (not a "You want lots of kids? OK, then you take care of them.").
J. (not verified) says...
I test as INFP. When I was a child, I dreamed of being a mother and a wife...but then my parents divorced, which traumatized me and destroyed my faith in marriage and parenthood. I switched to searching for the dream job. Well, God has other plans. Every time I prayed for my "dream job", He gave me a fake dream job which turned out to be my worst nightmare (e.g., my boss sexually harassed me and tried to force me to marry him!)...until I accepted that my "dream job" is wife and mother. He also told me that I will be a stay-at-home mom, which is the opposite of how I was raised (by an ISTP mom), so that's what He's been preparing me to do for years. His preparation has included an unplanned pregnancy (after warning me away from that relationship!), many classes on marriage and parenting, teaching children, praying for singles who want to be married and families, counseling married people, etc. After decades of fearing marriage (loss of independence, adultery, divorce) and motherhood (damaging children), I can finally say that I am no longer afraid of marriage and motherhood. All glory to Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.
CCS (not verified) says...
As an ISFJs, this report doesn't fit me. I've never wanted kids, don't have them and have difficulty being around badly behaving kids. Wish I knew why my type doesn't fit the report; just an exception?
BTW "Spammers will be fried and served on toast." is funny ;)
Jacob M. Engel says...
As an ENTJ (husband) and an INFP (wife), we have a large family and my wife loved being the stay home mother. Now she's very happy about her late in life career as a midwife!