Entrepreneurs more likely to have been rebellious teenagers

According to a group of researchers at the Universities of Jena and Stockholm, entrepreneurs are more likely to have been rebellious as children.

The group of researchers set out to determine whether there are any “hidden anti-social tendencies in entrepreneurial types.” There are reports to indicate that entrepreneurs are more anti-social with more delinquent behaviors.

Their findings indicate that entrepreneurs have their own unique moral and ethical beliefs.

Does the typical entrepreneurial ‘homo oeconomicus‘, who is only interested in his own benefit and profit and doesn’t care about ethical or social principles, really exist?

The Germand and Swedish group of psychologists gathered data from a longitudinal study ‘Individual Development and Adaptation’ which tracked around 1,000 children for a duration of 40 years.

Together with Swedish colleagues of the University of Stockholm, psychologists of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU) tried to answer these questions. In their search for anti-social tendencies in the biographies of business founders, the German-Swedish team of researchers came to surprising conclusions.

Dr. Martin Obschonka from the Center for Applied Developmental Science at the University of Jena said:

“We analyzed this data regarding the entrepreneurship the participants were showing later on in their professional careers. We wanted to know what kind of social behavior they showed.”

The scientists examined the participants rule-breaking behaviors and attitudes during their life, following them through until adulthood. They also evaluated the number of criminal offenses registered.

Entrepreneurs more rebellious in their teenage years

Entrepreneurs showed astonishing characteristics compared to those who didn’t found their own business. As kids entrepreneurs were far more likely to break rules in school and were more likely to cheat in school and consume drugs.

Dr. Obschonka added: “On the other hand the study also shows a different side of the entrepreneurial types.”

However, when the entrepreneurs became grown ups the difference in rule-breaking behavior wasn’t as marked. Early anti-social tendencies is likely narrowed down to ‘smaller misdemeanors’, meaning that entrepreneurial types are not significantly different to the rest of the population in terms of officialy punished behavior.

Dr. Obschonka explained:

“On the basis of the data, it can be argued that on average entrepreneurs don’t have more criminal careers than the non-founders. Likewise there was no difference to be found regarding the anti-social attitudes.”

Entrepreneurs have vision

Dr. Obschonka added that although there was clearly a transgressive behavior in adolescence “this doesn’t lead to the conclusion, that in adulthood the rules have to be broken serially and that anti-social behavior will be de rigueur. It is often claimed that their personality type is rather anti-social and that they are only self-interested.”

It’s vital for entrepreneurs to have innovative ideas and visions. Entrepreneurs’ distinct behavior to take risks and have the courage to explore the unusual may stem from rule-breaking behaviors in adolescence. They also have to understand what makes a good business idea and what doesn’t.

Dr. Obschonka concluded:

“The data suggest that a rebellious adolescent behavior against socially accepted standards and an early questioning of boundaries doesn’t necessarily lead to criminal and anti-social careers. It can rather be the basis for a productive and socially acceptable entrepreneurship.”