In psychology, temperament broadly refers to consistent individual differences in behavior that are biologically based and are relatively independent of learning, system of values and attitudes.
Some researchers point to association of temperament with formal dynamical features of behavior, such as energetic aspects, plasticity, sensitivity to specific reinforcers and emotionality. Temperament traits (such as Neuroticism, Sociability, Impulsivity, etc.) are distinct patterns in behavior throughout a lifetime, but they are most noticeable and most studied in children. Babies are typically described by temperament, but longitudinal research in the 1920s began to establish temperament as something which is stable across the lifespan.
Historically, in the second century AD, the physician Galen described four classical temperaments (melancholic, phlegmatic, sanguine and choleric), corresponding to the four humours or bodily fluids. This historical concept was explored by philosophers, psychologists, psychiatrists and psycho-physiologists from very early times of psychological science, with theories proposed by Immanuel Kant, Hermann Lotze, Ivan Pavlov, Carl Jung, Gerardus Heymans among others. In more recent history, Rudolf Steiner had emphasized the importance of the four classical temperaments in elementary education, the time when he believed the influence of temperament on the personality to be at its strongest. Neither Galen nor Steiner are generally applied to the contemporary study of temperament in the approaches of modern medicine or contemporary psychology.
The latest version of this model is based on the "Activity-specific approach in temperament research, on Alexander Luria's research in clinical neurophysiology and on the neurochemical model Functional Ensemble of Temperament. At the present time the model is associated with the Structure of Temperament Questionnaire and has 12 scales:
Jerome Kagan and his colleagues have concentrated empirical research on a temperamental category termed "reactivity." Four-month-old infants who became "motorically aroused and distressed" to presentations of novel stimuli were termed highly reactive. Those who remained "motorically relaxed and did not cry or fret to the same set of unfamiliar events" were termed low reactive. These high and low reactive infants were tested again at 14 and 21 months "in a variety of unfamiliar laboratory situations." Highly reactive infants were predominantly characterized by a profile of high fear to unfamiliar events, which Kagan termed inhibited. Contrastingly, low reactive children were minimally fearful to novel situations, and were characterized by an uninhibited profile (Kagan). However, when observed again at age 4.5, only a modest proportion of children maintained their expected profile due to mediating factors such as intervening family experiences. Those who remained highly inhibited or uninhibited after age 4.5 were at higher risk for developing anxiety and conduct disorders, respectively.
Alexander Thomas, Stella Chess, Herbert G. Birch, Margaret Hertzig and Sam Korn began the classic New York Longitudinal study in the early 1950s regarding infant temperament (Thomas, Chess & Birch, 1968). The study focused on how temperamental qualities influence adjustment throughout life. Chess, Thomas et al. rated young infants on nine temperament characteristics, each of which, by itself, or with connection to another, affects how well a child fits in at school, with their friends, and at home. Behaviors for each one of these traits are on a continuum. If a child leans towards the high or low end of the scale, it could be a cause for concern. The specific behaviors are: activity level, regularity of sleeping and eating patterns, initial reaction, adaptability, intensity of emotion, mood, distractibility, persistence and attention span, and sensory sensitivity. Redundancies between the categories have been found and a reduced list is normally used by psychologists today.
Research by Thomas and Chess used the following nine temperament traits in children based on a classification scheme developed by Dr. Herbert Birch: Thomas, Chess, Birch, Hertzig and Korn found that many babies could be categorized into one of three groups: easy, difficult, and slow-to-warm-up (Thomas & Chess 1977). Not all children can be placed in one of these groups. Approximately 65% of children fit one of the patterns. Of the 65%, 40% fit the easy pattern, 10% fell into the difficult pattern, and 15% were slow to warm up. Each category has its own strength and weakness and one is not superior to another.
Thomas and Chess also studied temperament and environment. One sample consisted of white middle-class families with high educational status and the other was of Puerto Rican working-class families. They found several differences. Among those were:
Mary K. Rothbart views temperament as the individual personality differences in infants and young children that are present prior to the development of higher cognitive and social aspects of personality. Rothbart further defines temperament as individual differences in reactivity and self-regulation that manifest in the domains of emotion, activity and attention. Moving away from classifying infants into categories, Mary Rothbart identified three underlying dimensions of temperament. Using factor analysis on data from 3- to 12-month-old children, three broad factors emerged and were labelled surgency/extraversion, negative affect, and effortful control.
Solomon Diamond described temperaments based upon characteristics found in the animal world: fearfulness, aggressiveness, affiliativeness, and impulsiveness. His work has been carried forward by Arnold Buss and Robert Plomin, who developed two measures of temperament: The Colorado Child Temperament Inventory, which includes aspects of Thomas and Chess's schema, and the EAS Survey for Children.
H. Hill Goldsmith and Joseph Campos used emotional characteristics to define temperament, originally analyzing five emotional qualities: motor activity, anger, fearfulness, pleasure/joy, and interest/persistence, but later expanding to include other emotions. They developed several measures of temperament: Lab-TAB and TBAQ.
Other temperament systems include those based upon theories of adult temperament (e.g. Gray and Martin's Temperament Assessment Battery for Children), or adult personality (e.g.the Big Five personality traits).
Scientists seeking evidence of a biological basis of personality have examined the relationship between temperament and neurotransmitter systems and character (defined in this context as developmental aspects of personality). Temperament is hypothesized to be associated with biological factors, but these have proven to be complex and diverse, and biological correlations have proven hard to confirm.
Several psychiatrists and differential psychologists have suggested that temperament and mental illness represent varying degrees along the same continuum of neurotransmitter imbalances in neurophysiological systems of behavioural regulation.
In fact, the original four types of temperament (choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic and sanguine) suggested by Hippocrates and Galen resemble mild forms of types of psychiatric disorders described in modern classifications. Moreover, Hippocrates-Galen hypothesis of chemical imbalances as factors of consistent individual differences has also been validated by research in neurochemistry and psychopharmacology, though modern studies attribute this to different compounds. Many studies have examined the relationships between temperament traits (such as impulsivity, sensation seeking, neuroticism, endurance, plasticity, sociability or extraversion) and various neurotransmitter and hormonal systems (i.e., the very same systems implicated in mental disorders).
Even though temperament and psychiatric disorders can be presented as, correspondingly, weak and strong imbalances within the same regulatory systems, it is incorrect to say that temperament is a weak degree of these disorders. Temperament might be a disposition to develop a mental disorder, but it should not be treated as a guaranteed marker for disorders.
Most experts agree that temperament has a genetic and biological basis, although environmental factors and maturation modify the ways a child's personality is expressed. The term "goodness of fit" refers to the match or mismatch between temperament and other personal characteristics and the specific features of the environment. Differences of temperament or behavior styles between individuals are important in family life. They affect the interactions among family members. While some children can adapt quickly and easily to family routines and get along with siblings, others who are more active or intense may have a difficult time adjusting. The interactions between these children and their parents or siblings are among a number of factors that can lead to stress and friction within the family.
The temperament mix between parents and children also affects family life. For example, a slow-paced parent may be irritated by a highly active child; or if both parent and child are highly active and intense, conflict could result. This knowledge can help parents figure out how temperaments affect family relationships. What may appear to be a behavioral problem may actually be a mismatch between the parent's temperament and their child's. By taking a closer look at the nine traits that Thomas and Chess revealed from their study, parents can gain a better understanding of their child's temperament and their own. Parents may also notice that situational factors cause a child's temperament to seem problematic; for example, a child with low rhythmicity can cause difficulties for a family with a highly scheduled life, and a child with a high activity level may be difficult to cope with if the family lives in a crowded apartment upstairs from sensitive neighbors. 041b061a72