A 10-year prospective study of personality and reproductive success: Testing the mediating role of healthy living
Objective: There is some evidence that personality relates to childbearing in adulthood but the importance of personality for reproductive capacity is unknown. This study explored cross-time associations between the major dimensions of trait personality and self-reported fertility and fecundity. Methods: A representative sample of young Australian adults [n = 4501; age range ≈ 18–44 (women), 18–54 (men)] provided information on personality, fertility, fertility intentions, fecundity and lifestyle factors (cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity) in 2006 and again in 2016. Older Australian adults [n = 4359; age ≥ 45 (women), ≥ 55 (men)] provided information on personality, lifestyle factors and completed fertility. Results: After controlling for sociodemographic factors, completed fertility was associated with higher agreeableness in both sexes, and lower conscientiousness and openness in women. In younger adults, higher levels of openness were associated with fewer children 10 years later in both sexes, and higher extraversion was associated with more children 10 years later in men. The association between fertility intentions and subsequent fertility was stronger among women scoring higher on conscientiousness, and women scoring higher on neuroticism were more likely to acquire medical or health difficulties in having children – an effect that was mediated by higher levels of cigarette smoking. Conclusions: The study provides initial evidence for an association between personality and the acquisition of difficulties in having children.