Sometimes a person doesn't have a choice when it comes to assuming the role of caregiver for a family member or spouse. Yet caregiving requires much personal investment. Taking on that role can be harmful to a person's physical and mental well-being. However, researchers have found that certain personality types are more amenable to caregiving. When a person has these characteristics, he or she is less prone to developing adverse health issues and typically will have a more positive outlook on life in general and caregiving in particular.
Personality Traits Amenable to Caregiving
In the world of caregiving research, caregiving has become synonymous with the health complications associated with chronic stress. Caregivers are even referred to as "hidden patients" because they tend to disregard self-care and prioritize others' needs ahead of their own. This causes them to have their own sets of health complications. Yet it might not be all negative forecasting for caregivers. Some truly do have certain personality types amenable to the selfless service of caring for others who can't fully care for themselves.
A study conducted by researchers with the journal Psychology and Aging looked at 536 informal caregivers. The scientists gathered data related to the caregivers' health and outlooks on how well they perceived they could do their job (their self-efficacy). They found that caregivers who were extroverted, who were more inclined to be sociable, and who had higher levels of energy did particularly well and had more positive outlooks on their responsibilities and self-efficacy.
Researchers were also able to conclude that caregivers who had the personality trait of conscientiousness were more organized and self-disciplined. These are traits that are linked to taking positive, health-promoting actions. Caregivers who scored high in conscientiousness were also more confident in their abilities and felt competent in their caregiving roles. It has been suggested that this contributes to lower rates of depression and an overall sense of mental well-being in the face of caregiving challenges.
Qualities of openness and agreeableness were also studied in the group of caregivers. These two traits were heavily associated with emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being in the caregivers. These traits allow caregivers the necessary mental flexibility to overcome complexities and remain concerned for the well-being of others. They tend to be great problem solvers even as they place an emphasis on sensitivity.
Overall, caregivers who possessed these personality traits had less tendencies to rate themselves low on their ability to perform their jobs. They reported better physical health and emotional well-being. Researchers couldn't rule out other factors such as age and other contextually relevant factors, but overall, the type of personality a person has can make caregiving less stressful, with less adverse health effects, because people with those personality traits tend to be more resilient in the face of challenging situations.
The Myers-Briggs Caregiver
Myers-Briggs is one of the most popular personality tools available. Companies and career centers find the test useful when placing employees in positions or when seeking to better communication within workplaces. The Myers-Briggs is a professionally certified personality test that uses a combination of four typical traits to come up with sixteen distinct personality types. One of the sixteen named personality types is "The Caregiver."
This specific personality type has certain characteristics that make a person best suited for caregiving roles in work and life. The four traits that make up "The Caregiver" actually align well with the previously mentioned study. Caregivers, according to Myers-Briggs, excel at extroversion, sensing, feeling, and exercising good judgment.
Myers-Briggs describes "the Caregiver" as conscientious, warm-hearted, and cooperative. They tend to be the people who seek out social interaction and have a way of bringing out the best in others. They have a compassionate way of understanding where another person is coming from and are good at sympathizing, while diligently searching for sensitive solutions in practical care. People with Caregiver personality traits enjoy being self-disciplined to carry out tasks on time and accurately, even in the seemingly small and insignificant things.
A Negative Personality Trait for Caregivers
There was one personality trait that researchers noted was not conducive to positive results for caregivers, and that was neuroticism. Neuroticism is characterized as a fundamental personality trait that can be described as anxious, fearful, easily frustrated, and worry-filled. Caregivers in the study who scored high in neuroticism showed feelings of being easily overwhelmed and highly stressed. These characteristics are associated with higher rates of mental health problems, including increased anger and poorer physical health. If a person characterizes himself or herself as being overly anxious or easily frustrated, it simply suggests that extra help may be a beneficial solution when this person faces caregiving challenges.
In one word, people who have a caregiver's personality can best be described as selfless. People with a caregiving personalities would find it rewarding to pursue careers in professional caregiving.
Yet a caregiving personality is not an absolute requirement when taking care of a loved one. Family caregiving is often a required necessity. All personality types may find that when they look back upon it, they see their own caregiving in a positive light for the good it accomplished.
Lockenhoff, C. E., Duberstein, P. R., Friedman, B., Costa, P.T. (2011). Five-Factor Personality Traits and Subjective Health Among Caregivers: The Role of Caregiver Strain and Self-Efficacy. Psychology and Aging, 26(3): 592-604. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168724/. Last Visited March 30, 2016.
The Myers-Briggs Foundation. The 16 MBTI(r)Types. Available at http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/the-16-mbti-types.htm. Last Visited March 30, 2016.