DEV - Temperament

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  • Created by: Sarah
  • Created on: 12-05-16 15:21


Pediatric Approach (Thomas & Chess)

Definition: Temperament best viewed as a general term referring to the how of behaviour.

Differs from ability, which refers to what and how well of behaving, and from motivation, which accounts for why a person does what he is doing.

Temperament, by contrast, concerns the way in which an individual behaves. 


  • Activity level
  • Regularity
  • Approach-withdrawal
  • Adaptability
  • Threshold of responsiveness
  • Intensity of reaction
  • Quality of mood
  • Distractibility
  • Attention Span

3 way typology of children:

  • Easy
  • Difficult
  • Slow-to-warm-up

Personality Tradition (Diamond; Buss & Plomin)

We define temperament as a set of inherited personality traits that appear in early life. 

Two defining characteristics:

  • The traits are genetic in origin, like other psychological dispositions that are inherited (intelligence, eg)
  • Traits appear in infancy - more specifically, during first year of life - which distinguishes temperament from other groups of personality traits, both inherited and acquired. 


  • Emotionality
  • Activity
  • Sociability

Individual Differences

Constitutionally based individual diffs in emotional, motor and attentional reactivity and self-regulation. 
Temperamental characteristics are seen to demonstrate consistency across situations, as well as relative stability over time.


  • Fearful distress/inhibition
  • Irritable distress
  • Attention span and persistence
  • Activity level
  • Positive affect/approach
  • Rhythmicity
  • Agreeableness/adaptability


  • Individual diffs rather than normative characteristics
  • Set of traits, rather than a trait itself
  • Temperamental dimensions reflect behavioural tendencies that are pervasive across situations, and show stability over time
  • Emphasis on biological underpinnings of temperament 
  • Emerges early in life - in purest form 


  • Differing boundaries for temperament 
  • Differing constituents (cf. activity level and emotionality)
  • relationship between temperament and personality construed differently 

Stability of Easy/Difficult Temperament (Korn, 1984)

  • Longitudinal extension of Thomas & Chess' New York Longitudinal Study into adulthood
  • 39 boys & 44 girls followed up into adulthood
  • Prediction of "difficulty" impressive from age 3 & 4…


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