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What social style is your child?

Uncovering your personality types

In ancient Greece Hippocrates defined four personality types: sanguine, melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic. These were based on body fluids, or humors.

Today we simply use questionnaires such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, MBTI, to define sixteen basic personality types. In Nurture by Nature, Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger explain the sixteen basic Myers-Briggs types and how to best support each personality style’s development.

The MBTI gets at four basic questions:

  1. How do you get your energy—from other people or from being alone? Extravert versus Introvert. (E and I)
  2. How do you prefer to get your information? Sensing versus Intuition. (S or N)
  3. Do you refer to think through an issue or use emotion? Thinking versus Feeling (T or F)
  4. Do you tend to be a planner or go with the flow? Judger versus Perceiver. (J or P)

Each style preference lies on a continuum scale. With these four designations there are 16 basic types, for example ESTJ, Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judger.

Knowing your own personality type as well as your child’s can help you understand where potential misunderstandings might occur as well as help you understand how to support a social style that is different than your own. For example, being an extrovert with an introvert child; being a sensing realist with an intuitive dreamer child; being a pragmatic thinker with a compassionate feeler: or being an organized planner with some one who prefers to go with the flow.

Researchers tend to think that these personality or social styles are present at birth and change very little over a lifetime.

The core categories are formed by these four groups:

SP, Sensing Perceivers, are fact oriented and are referred to as Experiencers. About 35% of the population falls into this category.

SJ, Sensing Judgers, are action-oriented and are called Traditionalists and comprise about 40% of the population.

NF, Intuitive Feelers, are ideal-oriented and are referred to as Idealists. They comprise about 15% of people.

NT, Intuitive Thinkers, or Conceptualists, are theory-oriented and make up about 10% of the population.

When data began to be gathered about the different personality groups, researchers thought that the population would be divided into equal quarters. SP’s and SJ’s make up around 75% of the personality styles, with NF’s and NT’s

comprising only 25%.

Millions of people have taken the MBTI since 1943. There are many versions of this questionnaire. Figure out your family’s personality types. You might uncover some interesting information that could make your job as a parent easier.

Written by Maren Stark Schmidt

Maren Stark Schmidt

Maren Schmidt is a certified Montessori teacher with the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and holds a Masters in Education from Loyola College in Maryland, as well as a BA from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in Interpersonal and Organizational Communications. Maren founded a Montessori school and has over thirty years experience working with children.

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