How Traumatic Experiences In Childhood Can Influence A Personality Test
9% of adults reported that they had experienced psychological abuse in childhood in the most recent Crime Survey for England and Wales (2015/16), with a further 8% reporting experiences of domestic abuse, 7% physical abuse, and 7% sexual abuse. As survivors are all too aware, the effects of these experiences in childhood can last well into adulthood, often leading to long-term mental health issues. Much of the psychological research relating to survivors relates to emotional development and mental health, but can the traumas experienced in childhood also affect your personality type?
Personality Type Indicators
The short answer is no, but this may not be how it appears: a history of abuse does not affect your personality type, but it can affect your result on a personality test. The Myers & Briggs Foundation outlines 16 personality types, which you may have come across in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), an introspective questionnaire relating to how people perceive, operate and make decisions in the world.
The test covers four categories: introversion or extroversion; sensing or intuitive; thinking or feeling; and judging or perception. Where you fall in each category makes up your personality type. For example, a result of introverted, intuitive, feeling and judging (INFJ) would mark you as the personality type colloquially known as the confidant. An INFJ personality is typically someone who searches for meaning in relationships and ideas, and has a strong desire to understand the motivation of others.
A history of child abuse can affect your result on a personality type indicator like this. This is because trauma can affect how we develop and display our type preferences. The majority of tests base their results on typical personality type behaviours and responses, and don’t take into account the effects of environment, stress or abuse.
How Your Experience Can Affect The Results
Any type of abuse can have repercussions on your mental health. If you have been diagnosed with PTSD, for example, how you display your personality type may differ from how it would present if your mental health was unaffected. To return to the example of the INFJ, these personality types aren’t expected to be drawn back to the past, but if you have PTSD, you may find yourself pulled back into your traumatic experiences. This may make you appear – to a personality indicator test – more like an ESTP type, displaying characteristics of extroversion with a focus on immediate results. This doesn’t mean you aren’t an INFJ type – you just aren’t presenting as one because of your PTSD.
Changes To Social And Emotional Development
Brain development studies indicate that children who have been maltreated can experience changes to the chemical activity and structure in their brains. This can affect not only their behaviour, but also their emotional and social development; as adults, this may mean that they aren’t as socially conscious or empathetic as they would have been under different circumstances. While their personality type is not affected, their behaviour is, leading to potential clouding of a personality indicator result.
Your personality type remains the same regardless of the experiences you have been through. However, as a survivor of abuse, your social and emotional development may have been affected, and there may have been an impact on your mental health. These factors can lead to behaviours that disguise your personality type, and if you take a personality indicator test, you may see a result that doesn’t affect your true personality type.
If you’re interested in defining your personality type, aim to do so when you’re in a positive place, and consider how stress or anxiety may be influencing your results. It may also be beneficial to do the test with your therapist, as they will be able to help you navigate the factors influencing your result.