Maren Schmidt: What social style is your child? |

Maren Schmidt: What social style is your child?

Maren Schmidt

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

Today, we simply use questionnaires such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to define 16 basic personality types.

In "Nurture by Nature," Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger explain the 16 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)

    Recommended Stories For You

  3. Do you prefer 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 someone 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 during 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 percent of the population falls into this category.
  • SJ, Sensing Judgers, are action-oriented and are called Traditionalists and comprise about 40 percent of the population.
  • NF, Intuitive Feelers, are ideal-oriented and are referred to as Idealists. They comprise about 15 percent of people.
  • NT, Intuitive Thinkers, or Conceptualists, are theory-oriented and make up about 10 percent 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 percent of the personality styles, with NF's and NT's comprising only 25 percent.

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.

Kids Talk TM deals with childhood development issues. Maren Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has more than 25 years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is author of Building Cathedrals Not Walls: Essays for Parents and Teachers. Contact her at or visit Copyright 2009.

Go back to article