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青少年时期的经历如何影响性格

更新时间:2018-7-9 19:12:50 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How our teenage years shape our personalities
青少年时期的经历如何影响性格

My four-year-old twins are similar in many ways – both are sociable, loving and cheeky – but a few contrasts are opening up. For instance, our son is more aware of time, endlessly curious about the future. Meanwhile our daughter is more determined to do things for herself.

我的一对龙凤胎孩子现在4岁,两个小孩在很多方面有共同之处。他们合群、友爱,也很调皮,不过他俩也开始出现一些差异。比如,我的儿子更有时间意识,总是对未来充满好奇;女儿则更有决心去做她自己的事情。

As a psychologist focused on personality (and as their father), watching their characters emerge and develop fascinates me.

我是一位父亲,也是一名研究性格的心理学家,我饶有兴致地看着孩子们的性格逐渐形成、发展。

It’s early days, of course, and while the roots of our personality can be traced all the way back to infancy, I know there will plenty of change to come, especially when our twins become teenagers.

现在判断还早,性格形成的根源可以一直追溯到婴儿期。我知道接下来将会发生很大变化,尤其是当他们步入青少年时期。

That’s because our teenage years are a time of rapid change. That’s why cognitive neuroscientist and teen brain expert Sarah-Jayne Blakemore recently described the unique challenge that adolescence represents as a “perfect storm” thanks to the simultaneous and sudden increase in “hormonal changes, neural changes, social changes and the pressures of life”. To that list, she could easily have added personality changes.

人们在青少年时期的变化非常快。正因为此,认知神经学家及青少年脑专家布莱克莫(Sarah-Jayne Blakemore)最近把青春期反映出的独特挑战称为"完美风暴(perfect storm)"。这一时期有几个方面同时突然加剧,即"激素变化、神经变化、社会变化和生活压力"。其实布莱克莫还可以轻而易举地加上一项——性格变化。

From infancy to later childhood, our personality and temperament typically become more stable as we adopt an ever more consistent way of thinking, acting and feeling. Personality stability increases once again from late adolescence into adulthood.

从婴儿期到儿童时代后期,我们的性格和脾气通常会比较稳定,思考方式、行为方式和表达感情的方式同样如此。性格在青春期后期到成年这一阶段趋于稳定。

But in the intervening teenage years this trend is put on hold. The kaleidoscope of personality is shaken and where the pieces land is of profound importance – long-term studies show that the traits that appear in our teenage years are predictive of a wide range of outcomes in life, including academic success and risk of unemployment.

不过这一趋势并未在青少年期间显现。转动性格的万花筒,我们会发现里面每一块图案都非常重要。长期研究表明,人在青春期表现出的性格特点可以预示将来各方面的人生走向,包括学术上是否会取得成功,以及是否会面临失业风险。

It’s early days for research on this topic, but the potential implications are exciting and important because, by learning more about the forces that shape teenagers’ personalities, we can potentially intervene and help set them on a healthier, more successful path.

对于这一问题的研究还处于初级阶段,不过这些潜在的影响非常重要,这是因为,通过更多地研究影响青少年性格的因素,我们有可能介入这一过程,将青少年引上更健康、更成功的道路。

Personality change is not unique to adolescence. If you zoom out and look across the entire lifespan, what you see is an average increase in desirable personality traits – less angst, greater self-control, less close-mindedness, more friendliness. Psychologists call this the “maturity principle” and if you’re a self-conscious and anxious 20-something, it’s comforting to know that, assuming your personality follows a typical course, then the older you get, the mellower you will become.

性格变化不仅发生在青春期。如果把视野扩大到整个人生,你会看到,好的性格特点呈均匀增长——忧虑减少,自制力增强,自闭心理减弱,以及更友善地待人接物。心理学家将这一现象称为"成熟定律(maturity principle)"。如果你是一个自尊心强且躁动不安的20多岁的年轻人,你会欣慰地发现,假如你的性格按照一个典型的规律发展下去,那么随着年龄的增长,你会变得更加平和。

It’s not such good news for kids at the brink of adolescence, however, because at this juncture something known as the “disruption hypothesis” kicks in.

对于即将迈入青春期的孩子来说,这并不是个好消息,因为在这时候 "混乱假说(disruption hypothesis)"开始发挥作用。

Consider a study of thousands of Dutch teenagers – the youngest were aged 12 at the start – who completed personality tests each year for six or seven years, beginning in 2005. The boys showed temporary dips in conscientiousness – their orderliness and self-discipline – in early adolescence, and the girls showed a temporary increase in neuroticism (or greater emotional instability). This seems to back up some of the stereotypes we have of messy teen bedrooms and mood swings. Thankfully this regression in personality is short-lived, with the Dutch data showing that the teenagers' previous positive traits rebound in later adolescence.

下面我们来看一项研究,研究对象是数千名荷兰青少年,年龄最小的为12岁,他们从2005年开始每年都会进行性格测试,持续了六七年。这些男孩在青春期早期认真做事的程度(即做事是否有条不紊以及是否自律)有所下降,女孩则在神经过敏方面有所减弱(或者说情绪不稳定性增加)。这似乎证实了我们对于青少年所持有的一些固有印象,比如说卧室经常乱糟糟的,情绪容易波动。不过幸好这种性格上的退步只是暂时的,荷兰的研究数据表明,步入青少年之前的正向性格特征会在青春期后期恢复。

Both parents and their teenage children agree that changes occur, but surprisingly, the perceived change can depend on who is measuring, according to a 2017 study of over 2,700 German teenagers. They rated their own personalities twice, at age 11 and age 14, and their parents also rated their personalities at these times. Some revealing differences emerged: for instance, while the teenagers rated themselves as declining in agreeability, their parents saw this decline as much sharper. Also, the teens saw themselves as increasingly extroverted, but their parents saw them as increasingly introverted.

父母和青少年孩子都认为会出现这些变化, 2017年的一项研究调查了2700多名德国青少年,结果令人惊讶:评定的人不同,得出的变化也就不同。这些青少年两次评定了自己的性格,分别在11岁和14岁时;他们的父母也在同一时间对孩子的性格做出评定。结果揭示了一些差异:比如,父母认为孩子们没那么友善了,变化的程度远大于青少年自己的认知。又如,青少年孩子们认为自己越来越外向,而父母却认为他们变得内向。

“Parents, as a whole, see their children as becoming less nice,” was the researchers’ uncompromising interpretation. On a more positive note, the parents saw their children’s declines in conscientiousness as less stark than their children did.

研究人员坚定地认为,"总体而言,父母对孩子的评价要低于孩子的自我评价。"不过积极的一面是,在做事的认真程度上,父母评定的下降幅度低于孩子们的自我评定。

This mismatch may seem contradictory at first, but can perhaps be explained by the big changes underway in the parent-child relationship brought on by teenagers’ growing desire for autonomy and privacy. The researchers point out that parents and teens might also be using different reference points – parents’ measuring their teenagers’ traits against a typical adult, while the teenagers’ are comparing their own traits against those displayed by their peers.

这两种结果起初显得非常矛盾,原因可能在于,亲子关系正在发生巨大的变化。产生这样的变化是因为青少年逐渐渴望独立,而且希望能有自己的隐私。研究人员指出,父母和青少年在评定的过程中选取的参照物也可能不同。父母评定青少年的性格特征常常以典型的成年人为参照物,而青少年自我评定时则以同龄人为参照物。

This is in line with several further studies, that also reveal a pattern of a temporary reduction in advantageous traits (especially niceness and self-discipline) in early adolescence. The general picture of the teenage years as a temporary personality “disruption” therefore seems accurate (and besides, in the German research, the teens and their parents agreed that agreeableness had declined, they just disagreed by how much).

这与其他一些更为深入的研究结果一致,这些研究同样揭示出青春期早期积极的性格特征(尤其是为人友善和自律)暂时减弱这样一种模式。因此,青少年时期总体上出现短暂性格"混乱"这样一种说法是很确切的(另外,在德国进行的这项研究中,孩子和父母一致认为,青少年在友善待人方面有所退步,只是双方对退步的程度说法不一)。

Of course, these are long-term studies that look at average personality changes among teenagers. This type of group-level data masks the amount of individual variation from one teenager to another. In fact, we’re only just beginning to understand the intricate mix of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to individual patterns of personality change.

还有一些长期研究着眼于青少年的平均性格变化。这种以小组为单位的数据掩盖了青少年个体间的水平差异。其实,我们才刚刚开始了解遗传和环境之间错综复杂的联系,这些都会对个体性格变化的模式产生影响。

The teenage brain is a good place to start. Over the last couple of decades, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and others have shown how adolescent development is marked by important brain changes, including a “pruning” of excess grey matter, which is associated with learning.

研究青少年的大脑是一个很好的切入点。过去几十年间,布莱克莫等人已经揭示出了青少年的发展与脑部重要变化之间的关联程度。在研究过程中,他们对过多的影响学习的脑部灰质进行"修剪"。

This could play a role in the patterns of teen personality change, according to a 2018 Norwegian brain imaging study. The researchers scanned the brains of dozens of teenagers twice over a period of two-and-a-half years, as well as having their parents rate the children’s personalities on both occasions.

2018年挪威的一项脑部成像研究表明,这可能会影响青少年性格变化的模式。研究人员在两年半的时间内对几十名青少年的脑部做了两次扫描,同时让这些青少年的父母对孩子们的性格做出评定。

The critical finding was that higher scorers on conscientiousness showed a greater rate of cortical thinning in several brain regions (a sign of more efficient pruning of grey matter and greater maturity). Similarly, higher scorers in emotional stability showed more advanced cortical thinning.

一项关键的发现表明,在认真做事的程度上得分越高的青少年,他们脑部若干区域内的大脑皮层变薄的比率越高(这表明对灰质的修剪更为有效,脑部发育也更成熟)。类似,在情绪稳定性上得分越高的青少年大脑皮层变薄的程度越高。

This line of research is only just beginning, but the researchers said their results imply “large individual variations in personality traits may partly be related to cortical maturation across adolescence”. In other words, how our grey matter changes during our teenage years may impact how we feel and behave.

这一领域的研究才刚刚起步,不过研究人员表示,"性格特征上较大的个体差异可能与青春期大脑皮层的发育过程有部分相关性"。也就是说,在青少年时期,脑部灰质如何变化可能会影响人的感觉和行为。

Of course, other external factors, such as stress or adversity, are also intricately tied into any personality changes in adolescence. It’s clear that many types of stress come with the territory of being a teenager. However, research reveals that the type of stress it is can impact upon specific personality changes. In a 2017 study involving US volunteers, researchers took measures of personality at ages 8-12 and then again three, seven and 10 years later. The volunteers also recorded any experiences of stress or adversity through their teenage years.

当然其他外部因素也与青春期的性格变化有着复杂的关系,比如压力和逆境。青少年必然会承受各种各样的压力,研究表明,这些压力会影响特定的性格变化。2017年,在一项研究中,研究人员对8-12岁的孩子们做了性格测试,并于3年后、7年后以及10年后再次测试。这项研究征集了美国志愿者,记录了这些人在青少年时期所经受的所有压力,以及他们经历的所有逆境。

The main finding was that increased adversity outside of a participants’ control, such as their parents’ divorce or a traffic accident, was associated with increased neuroticism over time both through adolescence and into adulthood.

这项研究主要表明,当那些超出了参与者控制范围的逆境程度加深时,比如说经历父母离婚或者交通事故,他们的神经过敏程度会随着时间的推移而逐渐加深。这个过程不仅贯穿整个青春期,还会延伸到成年期。

Meanwhile, adversity that was directly related to the participants’ own actions or decisions – such as misbehaviour leading to school expulsion – had even more repercussions for personality. This included increased neuroticism along with decreased conscientiousness and agreeableness over time. The researchers speculated that adversity as a result of a teen’s own actions might be viewed as more stressful, and therefore harm their personality development. This implies that providing teens with adequate emotional support – especially those who are experiencing stress –can help combat a cycle of negative personality change.

而那些与参与者自身行为或与行为产生直接相关的逆境(比如因行为不当而被学校开除)对性格有更多的负面影响。这种影响包括:随着时间的推移,神经过敏的程度加深,认真做事的程度和友善待人的程度减弱。研究人员推断,青少年因自身行为不当导致的逆境可能会给他们带来更大的压力,进而对性格发展产生不利影响。这也显示,给予青少年(尤其是那些正在承受压力的青少年)充分的情感关怀,有助于遏制负面性格变化的恶性循环。

It’s not all negative though. Other findings hint at more positive influences on teenagers’ personality changes. For instance, there’s evidence from a year-long 2013 Swiss study that teenagers’ positive sense of “identity” – specifically feeling able to act authentic; feeling in control of their life; and knowing what is expected of them – is associated with positive developments in personality over time including greater emotional stability and conscientiousness. Another study uncovered a link between self-confidence at school and positive personality development.

不过这些性格变化并不全是负面的。另外有研究显示了对于青少年性格变化的积极影响。2013年,瑞士做了一项长达一年时间的研究,有证据表明,青少年的积极"自我认同"感(确切地说是指:感受到自身能够真诚地为人处事,可以掌控生活,知道别人对自己的期望)与性格正向发展有关,例如情绪更稳定、做事更认真。另外,研究人员还发现,上学期间展现的自信和正向性格发展密切相关。

Such findings are encouraging because they offer some clues for how we might create more nurturing environments for teenagers to aid their personality development. This is an approach worth pursuing further given that teenage personality traits are predictive of experiences in later life. For instance, one British study of over 4,000 teenagers showed that those who scored lower in conscientiousness were twice as likely to be unemployed later in life, compared to those who scored higher in conscientiousness.

这些研究发现非常振奋人心,为如何创造出更有利于培养青少年的环境提供了线索,以促进其性格发展。这个方法值得进一步推行,因为青少年的个性特征可以预测他们未来的人生经历。一项有4000多名青少年参与的研究表明,和那些在认真做事程度上得分较高的孩子相比,得分较低的孩子以后失业的概率是前者的两倍。

We focus so much on teaching teenagers’ facts and getting them to pass exams, but perhaps we ought to pay at least as much attention to helping nurture their personalities. With my twins in mind, I know it’s an area of research I’m going to be following closely.

我们过分关注青少年的教学情况,并努力让孩子们通过考试,我们至少也应该用同样的精力来帮助他们培养良好的性格。我的一对双胞胎孩子督促我在这个领域继续深耕。

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