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  1. Temperament Frank McDonald Psychologist TTH June 2009

  2. Overview - Temperament • Defining terms & concepts – ‘temperament’ ‘type’ ‘traits’, ‘personality’ • The value of an understanding of temperament • History of the concept - from ancient to modern times. References to practical applications of concept • Sample of theoretical & research background - key concepts & findings • Measures of temperament • Further resources

  3. Terms and parameters • ‘Temperament’ – Researchers view as early-appearing, individual differences in reactivity & self-regulation assumed to have a constitutional basis (Rothbart & Derryberry, 1981; Rothbart, 2004; Rothbart & Bates, 1998) • Constitutional – relatively stable/enduring makeup of the organism influenced by heredity, maturation and experience • Reactivity - variations in quickness and intensity of emotional arousal, attention and motor action/activity level – the arousability of the organism’s behavioural and physiological systems • Self-regulation – neural and behavioural processes operating to modify this underlying reactivity • (S-r matures around 5-7 yrs. Prior to tho ‘what you see is what you’ve got’. So sociable, talkative = low reactive. High reactives can’t mask until then & so in novel situations may appear quiet, fearful, crying. But after 5-7 behavioural obs not a good measure.)

  4. Terms and parameters • While studies show moderately high heretability estimates for variables related to temperament, the idea, sometimes seen in literature, that temperament is a solely genetic/innate influence on preferences & inclinations to think or act in particular ways, is entirely theoretical • Most believe may be shaped by other factors in early environment (e.g. pre- & peri-birth stressors; crowded households or day care centres; parents) and that this can be a two way influence process • i.e. the endowment of temperament influences, and is influenced by, person’s experience that gives rise to adult personality (Rothbart, Ahadi & Evans, 2000)

  5. Terms and parameters • ‘Personality’ – complex of all the attributes - behavioral, temperamental, emotional & mental - that characterise an individual as unique. So includes aspects that go beyond temperament e.g. • view of self, people & world • links between self & other entitities in concepts, schemas, life narratives • cognitive adaptations to the world including coping mechanisms, defences, • locus of control (internal or external), self-efficacy (opp. of helplessness) • ‘Trait’ – a dimension of temperament or personality that is stable e.g. “he is a grumpy bloke” vs. a state “he is in a bad mood” • ‘Emotions’, or feelings about a situation, generally refer to transient states

  6. Values of Understanding Temperament • Temperament shapes attitudes & behaviours thence interactions with significant others from nursery thru to schoolyard, to workplace & wider community • Understanding temperament is central to understanding personality and individual differences. Individual differences in temperament form the core around which personality develops

  7. Values of Understanding Temperament • Good understanding of temperament can: • broaden psychological & developmental assessment (due to its influences on development in infancy & childhood) • tailor interventions (number of papers in recent years call for deeper understanding by health workers of temperament to adjust treatment plans & account for pt’s differing responses to their conditions & standard treatments) • de-pathologise ‘different’ behaviour • guide parenting strategies & adjust expectations (making aware of weak links early on may be preventative e.g. shy & difficult temperaments associate with later problems of depression & aggression, dual mx focus when high reactive parent v. high reactive child)

  8. Values of Understanding Temperament • In systems/organisations, appreciation of temperament may guide staff selection & improve tolerance of /raise appreciation of how differences underpin perceptions, motivations, communication styles, leadership style etc. • Goodness of fit between temperament & occupation makes it useful for career exploration (e.g. Pederson 1999). Useful device: Keirsey Temperament Sorter (Kiersey, 1978) a 4x2 analysis of temperament factors • What is our source of energy? • How do we take in and process information? • How do we make decisions? • How do we relate to the world around us?

  9. History of concept • Views on temperament since Greco-Roman times stressed balance between dispositions and constitutions, as understood at the time, up until modern times e.g. Eysenck (1967) who linked his fourfold theoretical typology to it (see next slide) • Hippocrates view (‘temperamentum’ L. Ref. to proportionate mix of bodily humours) • Blood – cheerfulness • Phlegm – sluggishness or apathy • Black bile – gloominess • Yellow bile - anger

  10. History of concept • 17th century – individual differences in behaviour no longer due to inborn nature, more to do w/ environment • 19th century – continued emphasis on external forces to explain temperament (Freud’s psychoanalytic theory) • early 20th century – behaviourist theory focused on the processes of classical conditioning & reinforcement (role of environment)

  11. History of concept • Mid to late 20thcentury - researchers began to question this extreme environmentalism: • Chess & Thomas (1956 – 1963)noticed some children with behaviour problems had received “good parenting,” while some well-adjusted children had received “bad parenting” Their work focussed on behaviour traits or ‘styles’ in children • Bell (1974) & Sameroff & Chandler(1975) recognised ‘reciprocal effects’ that infants’ behaviour influenced parent-child interactions. Temperament contributes to the ‘goodness of fit’ between child & environment

  12. History of concept • Separate from the behavioural line of thought there emerged the psychobiologic, exemplified by Kagan and Cloninger • Kagan (Kagan, Reznick, Snidman, 1988) established ‘biological inhibition patterns’ • Variations, first seen in behavioural observations of infants (starting about 7-9 months of age) from healthy pregnancies under consistent lab stimulation conditions, were supported by his biological observations. (See Neurobiology of Temperament section)

  13. History of concept • Work of Cloninger (who gave us the Type I and Type II classification of alcoholism) was seeded in attempts to discover links between temperament & personality structure & psychopathology - originally Somatisation Disorders and GAD (Cloninger, 1986) • He and his colleagues proposed a comprehensive psychological and biological model that purported to map personality at the genetic level (Cloninger et al., 1993) • Developed self-report measure Temperament & Character Inventory (TCI) that at the psychological level claimed to tap core traits in the form of 7 major factors

  14. History of concept • At the biological level they argued that the temperament traits said to be tapped by the TCI are associated with neurochemical substrates that have a genetic basis • The heritability of the TCI’s temperament dimensions supported in large twin study rates of 50-65% (Heath et al., 1995). • However, a review of molecular studies (Herbst et al., 2000) & some factor replicability & validity studies (e.g. Ball, 1999) of the TCI has created debate about the pharmacogenetic & psychometric specificity of the personality dimensions

  15. History of concept • TCI personality dimensions • 4 independent temperament scales • Novelty Seeking • Harm Avoidance • Reward Dependence • Persistence • 3 character scales • Self-directedness • Co-operativeness • Self-transcendence

  16. History of concept • Despite debate it appears to have value as a measure of psychopathology and aid in discovery of between individual variations in some physical conditions e.g. CHD (e.g. Hinstanen et al. 2009) & guiding adjustments to treatment based on temperament • e.g. smokers have different withdrawal patterns that align with temperament profile so may benefit from treatments matched to their profile • So high NS’s (smoke for pleasure) may benefit from patches and high HA’s (who smoke to relieve stress) may benefit from mood mx interventions (Leventhal et al., 2007)

  17. History of concept • Interest in temperament was also supported by major resurgence of interest in personality research in 80’s & 90’s associated with the general acceptance of a set of higher order constructs describing personality traits of adults & school-age children – the “Big Five” or “Five Factor Model” • See handout from Suggest ‘OCEAN’ as mnemonic

  18. History of concept • So with all these recent historical trends temperament re-emerged as an influence on study of child development & personality development generally • More contemporary views present an attempt to integrate the two historical lines with multilevel constructs of temperament comprising behavioural, psychologic, neural, physiologic and genetic levels (Ranger et al., 2008) • Nigg (2006) says by looking at how each level interacts with and mediates each other, the better we can grasp the concept of temperament

  19. History of concept Various theoretical approaches now agree temperament: • biologically based/genetically influenced (identical twins more similar temperaments than ‘fraternals’; consistent ethnic and sex differences) • refers to individual differences • exhibits a relative degree of stability over time, tho low to moderate stability from one developmental period to another. Develops with age (?as regulation matures) • modifiable by environment, learning & life experience. But not from one extreme to the other e.g. Kagan’s ‘high reactive’ infant will never be a ‘low reactive’ adult

  20. History of concept • Temperament can be shaped by cultural influences e.g. US culturally ideal baby • explores environment • interacts with other people (shyness seen negatively) • reacts to caregivers emotions, cues • Other cultures seek: • more independence (e.g. Germany) • More closeness (e.g. Japan)

  21. Sampling of research & theory • New York Longitudinal Study – NYLS (Thomas, Chess & Birch, 1968). Started in 1950’s. 141 subjects • Best known study of temperament development • Strong points of Study • One of few longitudinal studies of temperament starting with infancy. (Tho note internationally recognised Australian Temperament Project begun in 80’s tracking 2000 babies based at RCH Melbourne) • Very long term follow-up – infancy to adulthood • Wide variety of traits evaluated • Among the most widely cited studies of temperament

  22. Sampling of research & theory • Weak points of Study • Data gathered from structured interviews – subjective, difficult to replicate • Data sample was atypical – mostly infants of interns and residents at hospital • Remarkably high percent of children in follow-up receiving psychiatric counseling (e.g., psychoanalysis) • Infant data based on interview with parent of infant, not on direct observation of infant (though later data gathered directly)

  23. Sampling of research & theory • Activity Level • Rhythmicity • Distractibility • Approach/Withdrawal • Adaptability • Attention span & persistence • Intensity of Reaction • Threshold of responsiveness • Quality of Mood NYLS measured 9 traits

  24. Sampling of research & theory • Nine measured traits were used to divide infants into one of three temperament categories or “clusters” – • ‘Easy’ • ‘Difficult’ • ‘Slow to Warm up’ • These cluster ratings are often used widely & cited in research literature

  25. Sampling of research & theory Temperament Types • ‘Easy’ Child (40% of sample) – Quickly establishes regular routine in infancy – generally cheerful – easily adapts to new experiences • ‘Slow-to-Warm-Up’ Child (15% of sample) – Inactive – Mild, low-key reactions to environmental stimuli – Negative in mood – Adjusts slowly to new experiences

  26. Sampling of research & theory • ‘Difficult Child’ (10 % of sample) – Irregular in daily routines – Slow to accept new experiences – Tends to react negatively and intensely • 35% didn’t fit a category. Unclassifiable, not ‘average’

  27. Sampling of research & theory Dimensions of temperament advocated by major researchers (from Berg, 2008) Thomas, Chess & Birch (also Carey) • Activity level * • Rhythmicity • Approach/Withdrawal • Adaptability • Intensity of reaction • Distractibility • Attention Span • Mood persistence • Response threshold Buss & Plomin • Activity level * • Emotionality** • Sociability Bates • Fussy-Difficult ** • Unadaptable • Dull • Unpredictable Bornstein &Gaughran • Exploratory activity * • Affective experience and expressiveness • Stimulus sensitivity Rothbart • Activity level • Soothability • Fear ** • Distress to limitations ** • Smiling and laughter ** • Duration of orienting

  28. Neurobiology of Temperament • Kagan’s studies of ‘high reactives’: • neurochemical differences associated with amygdala’s lowered threshold for excitability (high cortisol levels) • high right frontal lobe cortical activity • stronger EEG waveforms at the 400 millisecs mark in response to unfamiliar stimuli • more active inferior colliculus (primed by amygdala) in response to auditory stimuli • high stable heart-rates (Kagan, 2007)

  29. Measures of Temperament • Assessments of Behaviour • Parental interviews & questionnaires (+’s convenient, depth of knowledge; -’s biased & subjective - may measure parental perceptions of temperament & not infant temperament per se) • Behaviour rating scales by professionals (e.g. teachers) or caregivers • Direct researcher observation e.g. in home setting or lab • Pencil & paper measures (e.g. Kiersey Temperament Indicator) – allows access to subjective data that behaviour may mask e.g. the outwardly relaxed 50 yr old who often has to down regulate in stressful or unfamiliar situations

  30. Measures of Temperament • Carey Temperament Scales (2000) (4-11 month items) 2. The infant is fussy on waking up and going to sleep (frowns, cries). 17. The infant moves about much (kicks, grabs, squirms) during diapering and dressing. 21. The infant stops play and watches when someone walks by. 36. For the first few minutes in a new place or situation the infant is fretful. 41. The infant keeps trying to get a desired toy, which is out of reach, for two minutes or more.

  31. Measures of Temperament • Other p & p tests include • The TCI-R (revised) (Cloninger et al., 1999) • The NEO (Costa and McCrae, 1985) • The Toddler Temperament Scale (Fullard, McDevitt & Carey, 1984) • Rothbart (1981) Infant Behavior Questionnaire • For more see the 2000 report on the ATP from the AIF. See Resources slide for link

  32. Measures of Temperament • Assessments of Physiological Reactions • Heart rate • Hormone levels • EEG waves in the frontal cortex

  33. Resources • Australian Temperament Project study – Australian Institute of Family Studies • Basic info on temperament for parents – Family Services NZ Gov’t • Kaplan and Sadock's ‘Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry’ 2005 (forklift edition)