10 personality traits you may have unwittingly inherited from your parents

Whenever I’d get into a fight with my mom or my dad back in my rebellious teenage years, I would always think to myself (or sometimes even yell at them), “I’ll never be like you!”

Well, the joke was on me. Because as I grew older, the more I heard, “Oh, you’re just like your mom!” or “You got your dad’s ambitious streak, huh?”

Apparently, no matter how much we try to be different from our parents, we have some personality traits that we may have unwittingly inherited from them.

Want to know what they are? Let’s take a look at those traits in this article. 

1) Openness to experience

First up, let’s talk about how open to experience you are. Are you quite adventurous and willing to try new things? Or more on the fearful side? 

This is something your parents might have passed on to you. If your parents are the adventurous types who love exploring new places and experiences, you might have inherited this trait from them.

For instance, I grew up in a home where both my parents were passionate about travel and gastronomic adventures. My dad particularly loved trying out other cultures’ cuisine, even those with insects and worms! 

And my mom? Oh, at 76 years old, she’s spending her retirement years still traipsing around the world!

So, given that background, I have that sense of curiosity and an insatiable thirst to learn about different cultures and experiences myself. 

2) Conscientiousness

Next up is conscientiousness – or how organized, dependable, and disciplined you are. 

Were your parents the type to always keep their word? Chances are, you’re likely to be just as reliable.

Or were they wildly inconsistent, disorganized, or impulsive? Then I hate to say it, you probably have those traits yourself. 

But don’t worry, you can buck that not-so-good inheritance by developing self-discipline. You can have your own system to help you be more conscientious than your parents ever were. 

3) Extroversion vs. introversion

Ever wonder why you’re the life of the party or prefer cozy nights in? Would it surprise you to know that this trait is one of the most strongly hereditary ones

Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, you can probably thank your parents for it (or blame them, depending on how you look at it).

Now, I’m not suggesting that if both your parents are introverts, you’re destined to be one, too. But it’s likely that you might lean towards the quieter side. 

Similarly, if you’ve got a couple of extroverted parents, you might find yourself more at ease in social settings. 

This is actually an interesting point my sister and I love discussing. She’s an extrovert, while I’m an introvert. So when we were younger, we would often ask each other, “Why are you like this??” in total confusion about our polarity.

But when we grew up and looked at our parents, it actually explained a lot. She takes after my dad, who’s at his best when talking to people, while I take after my mom, who loves spending time alone doing her own thing. 

4) Agreeableness

Another trait that can be explained by heredity is your degree of agreeableness. This is a personality trait that encompasses qualities like compassion, cooperativeness, and being considerate. 

People high in agreeableness are typically warm, friendly, and tactful. If your parents are the kind who always makes everyone feel welcome and valued, you might be more likely to display these traits as well.

This is actually not solely a nature-caused trait; nurture plays a huge role, too, according to Psychology Today. It’s pretty malleable, which means that…

…Even if you come from a highly “disagreeable” family, a change in environment or maturity can still make you more agreeable over time! 

5) Neuroticism

Neuroticism is another malleable trait that you might inherit from your parents. Things like mood swings, anxiety, and emotional instability can be passed down. 

So if your parents tend to worry a lot or get easily upset, you might find these tendencies in yourself, too.

But wait – just because you’ve got anxious parents doesn’t mean you’ll be an anxious wreck like them. You just might be a little more prone to worrying than other people. 

And as I’ve mentioned, it’s malleable, as recent research shows – or at least not as fixed as we’d always thought. 

You can manage those mood swings and emotional instability with the right strategies, like:

  • A healthy self-care routine
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • A strong support system
  • Therapy

6) Altruism

This is something I’ve always been particularly interested in. Why do some people have a strong urge to help others, while others do not give a sh*t at all? 

Apparently, the answer might lie in their genes. Altruism, the selfless concern for others’ well-being, can be passed down from parents to their offspring.

I won’t go into the detailed science of it all, just this one – according to a study, it’s all because of a slight variation in a particular gene. 

I guess that makes me pause a bit. Maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to judge those who don’t have the natural instinct to help – maybe they can’t help it themselves. Maybe they’re not even sensitive or aware of when their help is needed…

7) Sensitivity

That’s right, even the ability to detect or respond to slight changes, meanings, or stimuli can be inherited from our parents. 

So if your parents are the type who are deeply attuned to the feelings of those around them, you likely have that high sensitivity yourself. You probably wear your heart on your sleeve. 

It can certainly be exhausting at times, but consider it a gift that allows you to connect deeply with others and the world around you.

8) Optimism

A positive attitude is one more inherited trait you should be thankful for. If your parents were always able to look at the brighter side of life, even during challenging situations, you might find yourself echoing their glass-half-full view of life. 

I’ve always been an optimist, but I always chalked that up to my love for reading uplifting books and watching inspiring movies. Turns out, my parents – both irrepressible optimists – had more to do with that than my hobbies. 

In short, I was doing those things because I was an optimist by nature, not the other way around! 

9) Resilience

Chances are, if you come from a positive-thinking family, you’re also resilient. Because those two traits go hand in hand. 

According to this study, genetic factors greatly impact the way we respond to trauma and stress. 

So, parents who have the ability to bounce back from adversity are more likely to produce kids with that same fighting spirit. 

10) Ambition

Last on our list is ambition. If your parents are the type who set big goals and work relentlessly to achieve them, you might find a similar drive in yourself. You know what you want and have a take-charge attitude in life.  

The ambition gene might explain why some people seem destined for success. In fact, it shows up early, which is why we’ve got all those high school yearbooks where certain people are labeled “Most Likely to Succeed.”

It’s all about the level of persistence and the ability to stay focused. 

However, it’s important to remember that ambition isn’t just about reaching the top; it’s about setting and pursuing personal goals, regardless of your definition of success.

Final thoughts

This list should help us appreciate just how influential our parents are in our lives. As you can see, our personalities are just a matter of nature as much as nurture.

But while it’s fascinating to discover the personality traits we might have inherited from our parents, we don’t have to let them define us. 

Our experiences, choices, and the people we meet along our journey also play a significant role in shaping us. So, while our parents may have given us the initial blueprint, we hold the power to refine and redefine who we are.

The bottom line: no matter what genetic cards you’ve been dealt with in life, it’s still up to you to make your own story. 

9 habits that make people doubt your sincerity (and how to fix them)

Stop using these 11 phrases that make you sound weak