Teglasi (1998) - University of Utah



Teglasi (1998) - University of Utah
School Psycholo gt Revíew
1998, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 564-585
Temperament Constructs and Measures
Hedwig Teglasi
University of Maryland
Abstract: The documented importance oftemperament in explaining individual variability
in development and adjustm_ent continues to spur interest in research even as contrasting
theoretical perspectives are being debated. This review examines umesolved conceptua'í
issues in the measurement, of temperament. Despite many psychometric problems and
conceptual shortcomings of measures derived from various perspectives thai are available
to-assess temperament, the constructs themselves have important implications for the practice
Temperament is an active area of research
with demonshated relevance for the ment¿l health
construct validity (Goldsmith, Reiser-Danner,
field. Even as currently and incompletely
conceptualized, temperament has demonstrated
utility to explain behavioral individuality as well
as to predict the development of mental health
disorders (e.g., Carey, 1986; Guerin, Gotffried
& Thomas, 1997; Matheny, 1989; Maziade, Cote,
Boutin, & Thivierge, 1989; Rutter, l9B7),
particularly in combination with other risk factors
(e.g., Sanson, Oberklaid, Pedlow, & Prior, 1991).
ln addition, temperament has been identified as
contributing to resilience and resourcefulness in
the face of adversity (e.g., Grizenko & Fisher,
1992; Gunnar, 1995; Smith & Prior, 1995).
Accurate measurement of temperament constructs is needed to design appropriate school,
community, and home-based programs and/or
Within the field of temperament investigation, the many choices of dimensions identified
as separate elements, how they should be
combined, and their proper measurement given
these choices constitute a continuing debate.
Many shortcomings of available instruments have
been documented including inconsistent stability,
low interrater reliability, and questions about
Briggs, 1991; Hubert, Wachs, Peters-Martin, &
Gandour, 1982;Kagan, 1998; Rothbart & Bates,
1 998; Slabach, Mono\il, & Wachs, 1991 Windle,
1988). This review highlights the unresolved
conceptual issues and problems with measure-
ment. Limitations in conceptualization and
measurement must be taken into account by
practitioners when applying existing knowledge
to practice.
General Approaches to
MeasurÍng Temperament
Three techniques for measuring behavioral
of temperament are question-
naires, laboratory, or natwalistic observations and
interviews. Questionnaire procedures are the most
commonly used to assess temperament because
the method is relatively inexpensive and easy to
use. Parents ofyoung children are considered to
be good informants due to their vested interest in
closely observing their child and their ability to
report on subtle variation on many aspecti of
behavior not amenable to assessment in the
Iaboratory. On the other hand, parent questionnaires have been criticized for observer bias and
The author wishes to thank Roy P. Martin for comments on a draft of this article.
all_corespondence conceming this artic.le to Hedwig Teglasi, 3214 Benjanin Bldg., University
Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. E-mail: [email protected]¿.èdu.f_ddrgss
copyright 1998 by the National Association of school psychologists, ISSN 0z'lg-601s
Temperament Constructs
inaccuracy in recollections, observations, or
interpretations. Although some have found
adequate correspondence between maternal
ratings of temperament and laboratory observations (e.g., Matheny, Wilson, & Nuss, 1984), Iow
that temperament constructs as assessed with
agreement (in the .20 to .40 range) between parent
report and standard laboratory observations has
been more typical (e.g., Bomstein, Gaughran, &
Seg¡ri, 1991). These discrepancies are atlributed
frequently to inadequacy ofparent report (Kagan,
least in part, the intrinsic child characteristics.
1998; Seifer, Sameroffl, Barrett, & Krafchuk,
1994). Possible reasons for the inadequacy of
parent report have been suggested as follows
(Kagan, 1998; Sameroff, Seifer, & Elias, 1982;
Seifer et al., 1994; Vaughn, Bradley, Joffe, Seifer,
& Barglow,
1. Parents may be systematically biased
about the behavior of their own children. In an
effort to present a picture oftheir child that is
consistent with their preconceptions (schema),
parents may magniff some characteristics and
minimize others.
2. Parents do not possess a normative base
to use as a reference point in evaluating their
child's behavior.
3. Parents may be so responsive to their
child's temperamental individuality that their
ratings do not reflect their child's typical behavior
in a less protected setting.
Parents may differ in how they interpret
specific items.
5. Shortcomings of questionnaire measurement techniques may preclude the demonstration
of their validity. For example, Kagan (1998)
noted that parent ratings of a child's fearful
disposition cannot distinguish between fearful
tendencies that are rooted in biology from those
that were acquired without biological bias.
The fallacy of automatically assuming that
professional observations are superior to parent
ratings has been discussed (Carey, 1983).
Evidence of validity and reliability of observational techniques should be as stringent as for
rating scales (Rothbart & Bates, 1998). It may be
ftÍtful to view parental reports as qualitatively
different from observer perceptions and to
document their validity separately from observer
ratings. When mothers and observers reported on
infants' behavior during a specified time period,
agreement was moderate. Agreement declined
when mothers' ratings of infants' typicalbehaviot
were compared with what observers reported
during a specified time period (Bornstein et al.,
1991). Bates and Bayles (1984) have suggested
maternal ratings have three components:
objective, subjective, and error. They concluded
that measurement of temperament was not
dominated by subjective factors and did tap, at
The best source of information about
temperament may depend upon various considerations such as the particular temperament
dimension to be studied and age ofthe child. For
example, the contrived and unfamiliar laboratory
encounter (or visit to the dentist) may be wellsuited for the purpose of studying aspects of the
child's reactions to novelty. In contrast, parent
reports may be dominated by observations in the
familiar home setting. Laboratory or home
observations are feasible at younger ages.
However, when children are older, it is difficult
for those who are not typically involved with the
child to observe a full range of spontaneous
The frequent overlap between ratings of
temperament and problematic behaviors found
in the literature has sparked questions about the
construct validity of temperament measures.
Specifi cally, the high conelations found between
measures of temperament and behavior problems
could be taken as evidence that they are not
conceptually distinct. This conceptual distinction
was elegantly demonstrated by data showing that
subsequent to intervention there are changes in
maternal ratings of behavior problems but not in
ratings of temperament (Sheeber, 1995).
Neither questionnaires nor laboratory
observations provide information about continuities or discontinuities ofbehavior unless they
are repeated with the passage of time. While such
repeated sampling of behavioral style is a good
research strategy, it is less useful to the clinician
evaluating a child's temperament. A structured
interview formatprovides the flexibility to gather
historical data to trace the manner in which the
same temperament characteristic is expressed at
various ages. Furthermore, historical information
can reveal reactions shaped by other factors that
override temperament. For example, during a
structured temperament interview, a mother
reported to the authorthat her 7-year-old daughter
who had always been cheerful and easy going
had become init¿ble and destructive during the
past six months. The child's increasing difficulties
with peer interactions and performance demands
in school seemed to contribute to this shift.
Another distinct advantage of the interview
School Psychologt Review,1998, Vol.27, No.4
format is that informants can be asked about the
circumstances in which a temperament trait is
manifested. Various informants such as parents
and teachers may elicit different behaviors and
may focus on different types of situations. Poor
agreement among raters of questionnaire
measures is often ascribed to such contextual
differences in perceptions of various informants
about the child. The interview technique may be
helpful in reconciling the discrepancies typically
found in the literature. Structured temperament
interviews are not frequently used in research
probably because they are labor intensive.
However, due to their potential benefit for clinical
use, the.re is a need to develop reliable standard
interviews that are suitable for various ages.
The documented applicability of the temperament construct to a variety of developmental
and mental health issues and the increasing use
of temperament scales call for research to
elaborate and refine conceptualization and to
design improved measures. In the meantime,
currently available scales can be helpful tools if
used flexibly in conjunction with other sowces
of information.
Methods and Constructs
Researchers agree on basic definitional
properties oftemperament (see Teglasi, this issue)
but differin their focus on specific constructs and
research methodologies. It has been suggested
that the method of measurement is an integral
part of the construct which, therefore, should be
defined in construct-method units (Kagan, I 988).
The close tie between the measurement procedures selected to study temperament and the
constructs that emerge raises the possibility that
questionnaire and laboratory procedures do not
measure the same phenomena (Kagan, 1994).
Consider parent report versus a laboratory
observation of an infant's level of initability. A
laboratory observation of dishess or initability
would present a series of aversive stimuli and
would evaluate the degree, latency, and duration
ofthe response. In contrast, parent ratings seek
information about frequency or likelihood ofthe
infant to show distress under specified circumstances such as limit¿tions or unexpected stimuli.
These two approaches may not assess the same
aspects of the irritability construct. Apart from
the question of reliability (e.g., parent bias or
typicality of child's behavior during the observation), differences in the source and type ofdata
(such as parent or teacher description, self-report
laboratory or naturalistic observation, physiological indices) as well as the method of data
aggregation used (e.g., conceptual, factor
analytic) influences the basic terminologies and
their classification into categories. Thus,
discrepancies between methods cannot be
attributed to the shortcomings of any particular
measurement mode but must be understood as
representing different facets of the construct.
Even within a single approach to measurement
such as the questionnaire, the meaning of the
construct depends on the informant and the
specific way in which the instrument defines the
temperament dimensions measured.
Constructs in Rating Scale Measrxes
This section reviews three approaches to
developing questionnaire measures of temperament.
New York Longitudinal Study.In the wellknown New York Longitudinal study (NYLS),
Thomas and Chess (1977) used parents' descriptions of their infants as the primary basis for
proposing nine dimensions of temperament (see
the article authored by Carey in this issue for a
description of these dimensions). It is therefore
not surprising that the dimensions and items
represented focus on concerns that are salient to
early caregiving and mirror the language used
by parents. Soothability (distractibility from a
distressed state), for instance, is an æpect ofinfant
temperament that affects interaction with
caregivers. The ease with which parents can
comfort their infant influences their sense of
competence regarding parenting skills (Komer,
lg7l).Thomas and Chess (1977) developedtwo
separate measures (The Parent Temperament
Questionnaire [PTQ] and Teacher Temperament
Questionnaire [TTQ]) to assess the nine dimensions in children between the ages of 3 and 7.
Subsequently, fow scales to assess temperament
at various ages were developed by
William Carey,
in accordance
with the nine dimensional conceptualization of
a pediatrician and his colleagues
Chess and Thomas. 'Windle and Lerner (1986)
used the nine dimensional constructs as a starting
point to develop an age continuous measure
(ranging from preschool to college) with a
common factor structure across the age span. The
authors note that retaining the same wording
(except forpronoun) permits the scale to address
Temperament Constructs
development of self-regulation occurs with the
developmental questions. Bates, Freeland, and
Lounsbury 0979) developed the Infant Characteristics Questionnaire (ICQ) by applying the
passage of time through the interactions among
maturation, experience, and higher level cognitive
temperament is the frequent and intense expression of negative affect. Others such as Bohlin,
Hagekull, and Lindhagen (1981) in Sweden
developed infant temperament scales based on
the NYLS conceptualization.
Specific components ofthese broad concepts are
identifi ed as homogeneous subscales permitting
a highly differentiated assessment of broad
components. For example, positive or negative
NYLS conceptualization toward the goal of
identifying diffi cult characteristics in infants.
They suggested that the core of the difficult
Emotionality, Activity, and Sociabil¡ty.
Buss and Plomin (1975,1984) set out to explain
the constitutional substrates of developrnental
individuality. Therefore, they focus on temperament dimensions with aheritable basis that appear
early in life and suggest dimensions of emotionality, activity, and sociability (EAS).
According to this formulation, traits that have a
biological basis but are programmed to emerge
later in life are excluded. In constructing their
scale, Buss and Plomin used a combination of
factor analysis and theoretical conceptualization.
They'viewed temperament traits as multidimensional. For instance, Emotionaliry included
general negative afÏect and specific elements such
as fear and anger. Actívityincorporated elements
such as vigor and tempo. Sociability included
tendencies of gregariousness and preferences to
be with others. Impulsivity (which was subsequently dropped due to insufficient evidence
for heritability) included components such as
inhibitory control, decision time, sensationseeking, and persistence. Rowe and Plomin
(1977) combined 54 items from the nine NYLS
dimensions with 20 items from the EASI (an
earlier version of the EAS which included
Impul sivity). The result ing 7 4 -item Chil dren' s
Colorado Temperament Inventory (CCTI)
included six factors: Sociability, Activity,
Emotionality, Attention Span-Persistence,
Reaction to Food, and Soothability.
Reactivity and Self-Regulation. Rothbart
and Derryberry's (1981) model posits reactivity
and self-regulation as
key components of
temperament (see Rothbart & Jones, this issue).
Both are functions of neurobiological processes.
Reactivity refers to the arousability of motor,
affective, and sensory response systems. Selfregulation is the attempt to modulate (increase
or decrease) reactivity through the processes of
attentional focusing and inhibitory control. The
and emotional processes. Scales developed by
Rothbart and her colleagues have employed a
framework that defines aspects of reactivity and
self-regulation as dimensions of temperament.
emotional reactivity is broken down into
components such as sadness, fear, distress to
limitation, initability, smiling, and laughter as
well asjoyto low intensity stimuli. Likewise, selÊ
regulatory mechanisms have been parsed into
components of attention, activity, behavioral
inhibition, and inhibitory control. Shelau (1983)
proposed a similar distinction between reactivity
in terms of arousal of the Central Nervous System
(CNS) and actívity to moderate that arousal. He
and his colleagues conceptualized temperament
within the Neo-Pavlovian tradition on the basis
of three hypothetical properties of the nervous
system: strength of excitation, strength of
inhibition, and mobility (ability to prioritize
excitability and inhibition in a particular context
or adaptive fl exibility).
Each theoretical perspective on temperament
provides insight about the role of temperament
in development and a framework for its measure-
ment. However, the field lacks a clearly articulated structure to assess the complex relationships of various dimensions of temperament that
have implications for adjustment. Many temperament measures currently used are based in whole
or part on the nine dimensions derived from the
NYLS (Thomas & Chess, 1977). Factor analytic
studies have shown that these temperament
dimensions, though used in currently popular
instruments, overlap (e.g., McClowry, Hegvik,
& Teglasi, 1993); items constituting these nine
dimensions generate five to seven factors based
on parent ratings, and three factors with teacher
ratings (for a review, see Martin, Wisenbaker, &
Huttunen, 1994). These findings are often used
to justify the construction of scales with fewer
dimensions. Scales based on item level factor
analyses of the nine dimensions are exemplified
by the Temperament Assessment Battery for
Children (TABC; Martin, 1988) and its subsequent revision (TABC-R; Martin & Bridger,
unpublished manuscript) as well as by the School
Age Temperament Inventory (SATI; McClowry,
School Psychologt Review,1998,
1995). Likewise, using factor analysis, Keogh,
Pullis and Cadwell (1982) developed the short
form of the TTQ.
The use of factor analytic techniques to
eliminate potentially useful dimensions is a
source of debate within the temperament field
(Carey & McDevitt, 1995). Carey and his
colleagues have argued for measures to keep
concepts like adaptability because of their
importance to parents, teachers, and educators,
even if these constructs do not retain their
distinctiveness in factor analytic studies. The
matter of retaining dimensions on questionnaire
measures should not rest exclusively with factor
analysis but also consider the relationships of
those dimensions with external criteria and
theoretical constructs. Nevertheless, factor
analysis is a useful technique to examine
constructs and suggest avenues for further study.
For instance, the finding that the distractibility
factorbreaks into two components during infancy
suggests that these two dimensions are worthy
of study (Rothbart & Mauro, 1990) rather than
concluding that distractibility is not reliably
measured and dropping it from the scale.
The language of scales that are named
according to theory or factor structures have
scientific appeal. Yet, their translation into terms
that match the client's concerns is a challenge
for the practitioner. Understanding the basic
constructs permits the professional to move
between scientific terminology and the experience of clients. The pervasive influence of
concepts and measures derived from the framework proposed by Thomas and Chess may be
credited to its clinical origins.
Various temperament questionnaires developed from the perspectives described are listed
in Appendix A.
Conceptual Issues in Measurement
Definitions of constructs connect abstract
ideas called latent-traits that cannot be seen
directly to specific observable responses (e.g.,
Cronbach & Meehl, 1955; Murphy & Shofer,
1988). Basically, constructs name ideas such as
temperament dimensions and define various
observable manifestations. A broader construct
such as negative emotionality may be defined in
terms of specific subconstructs such as initability
or fear. In turn, each subcomponent is defined in
terms of specific observable manifestations such
as crying or fussing. Further specification would
Vol.27, No.4
identiff the eliciting conditions such as crying to
noise or restraint. Thus, the construct permits
understanding of various behaviors that are
similar in some way. If constructs cannot be
directly seen, then they must be ínfened from
observable data. Therefore,limitations in the data
restrict the scope of the constructs, and flaws in
the constructs constrain the data sought.
Researchers working with different assumptions
and drawing inferences from different types and
sources of information will understandably
develop different constructs.
Having defined relevant constructs, one
obvious question is whether items on rating scales
that measure constructs should ask raters to
respond to qpecifc behaviors or global cltaracteristics (e.g.,traits, concepts). A global item would
ask respondents to rate a child's persistence. A
highly specific item would ask if the child
completes a particular task under certain
conditions. It is important to note that a child can
be persistent yet fail to complete tasks because
of tendencies to be perfectionistic, difficulty
understanding what is required, or inflexible
(perseverative) strategies. Such conceptual
distinctions are usually not considered in scale
construction, and the professional must bring this
understanding to the evaluation.
There are relative advantages and disadvantages to global and specific items. Kagan
(1998) argues for increasing specificity of items
by indicating the eliciting conditions for
responses. Accordingly, an infant's crying should
be coded as "crying to noises, restraint, novelty,
or pain." Likewise, smiling should be coded more
specifically as "smiling to a face, a mobile, a
completed goal related action, tickling or the
violation of an expectation norm." (p. 206).
Ratings of such specific everyday behaviors
appear less subject to rater bias than general
judgments about temperament dimensions. Yet,
global ratings of temperament (e.g., easy or
difficult temperament) appear to be as good or
better than profiles based on more specific
behavioral ratings in predicting other indices of
behavioral adjustment or maladjustment (Sanson
et al., 1991). Furthermore, when global ratings
are requested in addition to the specific behavioral
ratings, these ratings do not coincide with the
expected profiles drawn from responses to the
specific behaviors (Carey & McDevitt, 1978;,
Sanson, Prior, Garino, Oberklaid, & Sewell,
1987). It is possible that global ratings implicate
a broad range of variables including some that
Temperament Constructs
are not incorporated in the temperament measure
that may influence reports of adjustment.
Progress in science depends on the refinement of constructs and theirmeasures. Optimally,
1981; Strelau, 1983; Zuckerman, 1979,1994).
Theories focusing on arousal regulation imply
situation-specificity because situations and tasks
have different stimulative value, and individuals
there would be a match between naturally
vary in their reactions to various levels and types
occurring levels of a construct with data produced
by measurement devices. Conceptual clarity and
the link between measures and constructs is key
of stimulation.
to the continued refinement of questionnaire
measures. Considerations that are important to
the development and use of temperament scales
are reviewed next.
Situational Specifi citY
Although there is a diversity of opinion on
A construct such as threshold of sensitivity
may be specific to a particular sensory modality
(visual, auditory, gustatory, olfactory, tactile) and
class of physical or social stimuli. Incorporating
such distinctions by defining subdimensions of
this construct according to the specific situation
and sensory modality permits linkages between
measures and theories involving arousal regula-
tion or stimulus seeking that may relate to
different biological subsystems. Even if we
the matter (see Kohnstamm, 1986), the dominant
concluded that aggregating across situations is
view is that temperament is cross-situationally
consistent (Strelau & Eysenck, 1987). This
position is reflected in most temperament
questionnaires that minimize the impact of
situationally specific variables by aggregating
the best index of temperament, the applicability
ofthe constructs would still require us to explore
systematic variations in situations. Eliasz (1990)
items that sample a broad range of situations (e.g.,
Buss & Plomin, 1984; Carey & McDevitt,1978;
Martin, 1988; Windle & Lemer, 1986). Classical
test theory teaches that aggregation increases
validity because multiple items reveal behavioral
consistency in a systematic way, whereas
measurement error will be random across items
(Rushton, Jackson, & Pannonen, 1981).
Despite conceptions of temperament that
insist on generality across types ofresponses and
situations, there is increasing evidence for
behavioral style being dependent on context.
Goldsmith and Campos (1990) found negligible
correlations between parameters of intensity,
duration, and latency across responses to different
laboratory situations. Thus, infants could not be
generally classified as intense or slow to respond
without reference to the type and context of the
response. Goldsmith and Campos concluded that
"the view of temperament that our results support
is not the outmoded view of temperament
present at birth, rigidly stable across time and
invariant across situations." (r. 1961). Instead,
these authors see temperament as comprised of
behavioral tendencies that are moderated by
situations, occasions, and other dispositions.
Situational-specificity is compatible with
notions of activation, reactivity, and optimum
arousal that have a key role in various theories
temperament and in biologically rooted conceptions of personality (e.g., Buss & Plomin,
1984; Mehrabian,l9TT; Rothbart & Derryberry,
argued that the "continuity of behavior within
well-defined classes of situations enables
adequate prediction of behavior despite the
existence of cross-situational differences" (p.
290). Even so, prediction is elusive because
individuals can behave in ways that override their
temperament grain.
Item level factor analyses also are informa-
tive with respect to the situation-specificity
question. Rothbart and Mauro (1990) found two
distress related factors, one being general
irritability or distress-proneness and the other
concerning fearful responses to novelty. The
novel situation frequently emerges as an elicitor
(and defining component) of some temperament
traits (see Henderson & Fox, this issue). The
social-nonsocial context also is pertinent.
Goldsmith and Rothbart (1991) report that when
they attempted to construct a general fearfulness
scale in the TBAQ, their efforts resulted in a more
narrowly conceptualized "social fearfulness"
scale because items concerning fearful reactions
to animals, loud sounds, the dark, and so on failed
to correlate with other more social fear items.
The question is not whether diffe¡ences exist
across situations but how to view these differences so that they strengthen rather than dilute
the temperament concept. Situation-specific
discrepancies can be treated as indices of
fundamental differences in temperament deflrned
as process or style of interacting with specific
types of stimuli. For instance, the temperament
concept oflow threshold refers to sensitivity to
weak stimuli. However, rather than considering
School Psychologt Review,1998, Vol. 27, No. 4
sensitivity as general, it may be more fruitful to
characterize individual differences in sensitivity
by stimulus-specific patterns. The more global
question of how sensitive isthe individual can be
clarified by patterns showing precisely how the
individual is sensitive.
Documentation of situation-specifi c profiles
is important to understanding the nature of the
situations or environments to which the individual
reacts in adaptive ormaladaptive ways as well as
to underst¿nding the constructs themselves. Some
biologically based temperament models explain
differential sensitivity to stimuli signalling
rewards and punishments. For example, Gray
(1971, l99l) postulates a balance between
positive and negative motivational systems. The
"behavioral inhibition system" is responsive to
negative stimuli in contrast to the "behavioral
activation system" which is reactive to positive
signals. Table 1 shows ways that situational
factors might be conceptualized in relation to
temperament constructs.
developed in relation to specified stimuli or
contexts. Likewise, tendencies to approach or
withdraw can be considered in reference to
various degrees ofnovelty orrisk as well as other
aspects of stimuli, situations, persons, and
2. By focusing on trait-situation units,
temperament is a starting point for understanding
situational specificity in the development of
complex units of personality. For instance, the
behavior of an inhibited child in an unfamiliar
situation can be understood by considering other
units of functioning related to that situation such
as adaptability, information processing, coping
skills, motivation to remain in that situation.
3. Situation-specific definitions have the
potential to increase rapprochement between
laboratory and questionnaire methodologies
because contrived laboratory situations are
specific. Prototypical situations could be
systematically related across measures to
dimensions of temperament.
In spite of the emphasis given to cross-
4. Situational-specificity is, in fact, con-
situational consistency in conceptualization and
sistent with current conceptualizations but has not
measurement, there are many advantages to
differentiating broader temperament variables
into situation-specific as well as stimulus and task
related subdimensions. Clinically useful terms
often been made explicit and certainly has not
been systematically incorporated into questionnaire temperament measures.
5. Situation-specific properties of temperament permit the drawing of linkages to theories
involving arousal regulation or stimulus seeking
that may relate to different biological subsystems.
In summary, temperament is expected to be
can remain more general for meaningful
communication, but are more precisely articulated through their situationally defined components:
1. Individual profiles for a temperament
dimension such as reactivitv threshold could be
stable across functionally similar classes of
situations. By the same token, some traits may
Table I
Multiple Ways to Conceptualize Situational Factors
Eliciting Context
Stimuli or circumstances that evoke particular responses such as social, group, one-to-one, or specific
task, learning, or performance conditions. Parameters of each eliciting event might be extent of
novelty, ambiguity, risk, complexity, variation, potential for threat or reward, predictability.
Processes required to adjust to various contexts such as concentration, persistence, spontaneity, or
specified self-regulatory skills (e.g., arousal regulation, emotional attunement, or information
Subjectìve Context
Subjective states that influence processes previously described may include style of reaction according
to level of interest or mood (e.g., persistence when interested in a task or intensity of reaction when
Temperament Constructs
be more general than others such as tendencies
to experience optimism or positive emotions in
contrãst to negative reactions. The practitioner
must be awarè of refinements in conceptualization even ifthey are not yet incorporated into
measures. Furthermore, the specific measure
chosen mustmeetthe purpose and its nature must
be understood bY the user.
Discrete Versus Multi-ComPonent
TemPerament Dimensions
Broad conceptual groupings such as
reactivity and self-regulation can be operationalized in multiple \ilays. An individual's
reactive processes have many possible components (somatic, autonomic, neuroendocrine,
õognitive, verbal, motoric, emotional). Reactive
emotional processes can be organized into the two
broad categories of positive and negative
reactivity (Rothbart, 1989)' Reactivity can be
further rèfined by speciff ing the stimuli that elicit
the reaction (e.g., sight, sound). These stimuli
have aspects that are objective (intensity) and
subjective (perceived meaning, positive or
negätive evaluation and expectations¿bout their
ocõunence). In such amanner, general constnrcts
can be parsed according to specific parameters'
Foì Strelau (1983), reactivity has two
ow int e ns e a st ímulu s
interacting components
must be tõ evoke a reaction and the intensity of
the reaction itself. Tfueshold of responsiveness
ofThomas and Chess (1977) touches on reactivity
as does Buss and Plomin's (1934) definition of
emotionality. The dimension of reactivity is
theoretically central to a variety of temperament
constructs luch as negative emotionality and
adaptability. Other traits viewed by some as
temperamental, such as extraversion-introvetsion, sensation-seeking, difierential sensitivity
to rewards and punishments and behavioral
inhibition also involve differential thresholds for
responding. The separate dimensions and their
contributiõns to broader constructs need to be
sorted out.
The broader emotional construct ofnegative
affect is supported by the frequent co-occulrence
of anxiety ãnd depression (Brady & Kendall,
1992; Watson & Clark, 1984)' Negative
affectivity (Watson & Clark, 1984) in general has
been conceptualized as a temperamental sensitivity to nêgative stimuli. Those who are high
on negative iffectivity tend to experience abroad
range of negative moods including fear, sadness,
and anger. Furthermore, emotions are associatively linked so that one type of negative affect
suclr-as anger is likely to trigger others. Negative
emotionaf reactivity has been emphasized in
temperament research but has been viewed as
being too broad a construct (Kohnstamm' 1986)
that should be split into components such as
anger, fear, or distress as well as consideration
of intensity of expression, threshold of response
to particuiar stimuli (noise), anq th9 specifltc
coiditions (fatigued, hungry). Fear itself may best
be described ai a family of emotions that has
several distinct members (Kagan, Lgg4).Rothbart
( I 98 1) difierentiates negative emotio¡ali{.d*ing
ihe first year into components of fear, distress,
and soothability. In the development oftheir Early
Adolescent Questionnaire (EATQ)' Capaldi and
Rothbart (1992) decomposed negative emotionality iìto fêar, initãbility, shyness, and
The quality of mood dimension of the nine
dimensional scheme ofThomas and Chess (1977)
places negative and positive mood quality at
õpposite ends ofthe same continuum. However,
sùôtr a polarized view of positive and ne-gative
affect iiinaccurate. Literature on ratings of mood
suggests that it is best conceptualized as a bidimensional construct in adults (e.g., Watson,
Clark, & Carey, 1988) and child¡en (e'g., King'
Ollendick, & Gullone, 1 99 1) with separate factors
for positive and negative emotionality. Future
research is needed to clarify the relationships
among specific emotions (e.g., anger, feaÍ,
irritability) to each other and to more broadly
defined emotional constructs such as positive or
negative emotional reactivitY.
Like other broad temperament constructs'
self-regulation has been conceptualized to include
multipìe components (Rothbart & D-errybery'
198ti nothAârt *. Posner, 1985). Generally,
individuals who vary inresponsiveness to specific
stimuli also vary in their preference for seeking
or avoiding such stimuli (self-regulation)'
Therefore, réactivity sets the demands for selfregulatory activities. Important que-stions for
teñrperament theorists pertain to how selfreguiation of basic temperamental reactions (i'e,
arõusal, attention, activity, emotion, behavior)
interplays with experience and with.other
p.rsónai attributes such as cognition in the
ãevelopment of b¡oader aspects of self-regulation
associãted with personality (i.e. long term
internally organized standards). The
self-regulation is used in reference to
School Psycholog Review, 1998, Vol.
temperament as well as higher order personality
other factors by combining with intensity, mood,
f'unctions. Approach-withdrawal is commonly
or reactivity factors (Prior, Sanson, Carroll, &
Oberklaid, 1989; Rothbart, 1989). Therefore, its
role as a separate factor and as a contributing
aspect of broader factors must be examined.
Moreover, different facets ofthe activity constnrct
can be conceptually distinguished such as
regulation of activity, preferences for engaging
in particular activities and amount of motoric
movement. These multiple aspects ofactivity are
exemplified by choices of sedentary or active
pursuits and capacity to gear activity to various
situational demands. Thus, a motorically active
child can prefer to be outdoors and to run at every
opportunity but might remain seated during
dinner or handle long car rides. On the other hand
many hyperactive children may sit in front of the
TV or computer for extended periods of time. A
mechanical device registering amount of motion
without a context could not distinguish between
such children without disaggregating data from
different situations. The different fãcets of the
activity construct need to be considered in the
development and interpretation of measures.
Attentional orienting has been decomposed
into three component operations (Posner, Inhoff,
Friedrich, & Cohen, 1987): disengage, shift, and
engage. Separating these operations permits
scientific inquiry to delineate which components
are temperamental and to ascertain which
operations are involved in attentional biases such
as those related to anxiety or to other emotional
states. For instance, the difficulty with disengaging from negative ruminations may
represent a different problem than inability to
engage one's attention on tasks. It is important
to note that assessing such distinctions is probably
beyond the scope of questionnaire measures
alone, requiring additional information from a
combination of performance tasks.
as a temperamental dimension that
serves self-regulatory functions (e.g., seeking or
avoiding excitement or stimulation). However,
the focus of approach-avoidance activities (and
hence self-regulatory orientation) varies as a
function of the organization of personality
(Higgins, 1997). The complexity of the selfregulation construct raises questions about
multiple conceptualizations of self-regulation (a)
as a separate dimension oftemperament, (b) as a
factor related to each temperament dimension,
and (c) as a complex mechanism incorporating
several dimensions.
Other temperament dimensions, for example
"adaptability," may consist of many interrelated
facets and, as such, are better understood as
multidimensional. Items assigned to the adaptability dimension despite adequate internal
consistency tend to disperse across factors rather
than cluster together (McClowry, Hegvik, &
Teglasi, 1993). Windle (1988) argued that
coefficient alpha is not sufficient to demonstrate
unidimensionality of items assigned to a
temperament dimension. The causes for a child's
poor adaptability may include various emotional
and cognitive components. Thus, adaptability is
a broad term that needs to be redefined relative
to age and situational context. In their Dimensions
of Temperament Scale Revised (DOTS-R),
Windle and Lerner (1986) substituted flexibilityrigidity for the adaptability dimension because
the former is more specific than the latter. Subsequently, they found that the DOTS-R can be
represented by two strong factors of Adaptability
and Activity (Talwar, Schwab, & Lerner, 1989).
Broad terms are useful in that they organize
concepts. They provide a conceptual framework
to systematize awide range of data according to
specific reactions to specific stimulus classes, but
they are not measured directly. To increase
conceptual clarity and practical utility, the relationships of broad factors to those that are more
specifrcally defined and the connections among
these components (e.g., various types of negative
emotions) must be more precisely delineated.
Multiple Facets of Discrete DÍmensions
A temperament construct such as level of
activity is usually thought of as a single
temperament dimension. However, in some factor
analytic studies, activity disperses into several
Poor psychometric properties of dimensions
such as threshold, intensity, and distractibility
may be attributed to a lack of conceptual purity
and item heterogeneity (Scheier, Casten, &
Fullard, 1995). The parsing and refinement of
specific temperament dimensions will permit
more precise theoretical understanding of
multiple facets of specific constructs and for tying
together cohesive patterns that coordinate
biological models and behavioral evidence.
Age Appropriateness of Measures
One problem in the assessment of tempera-
Temperament Constructs
groups have
ment is that measures for older age
been either upward .*t.niion,
scales derived from
toddlers or based on biological models
private aspects of behavior become more
ãiffli."ri"å¿ and events within and outside the
pãiron become reconciled' An emotionally
in1.nr" child-mav be trained to refrain from
to crying, screaming, ór fretting. Wft,jnr.*pã.ámentis defined as the surfacepattern ofbehaviJr
it is easy to see how trrese mänirestations *our,i
change with age. A temperament dimen.ion
as negative emotionality is-not synonyrno.r,
any one behavior but iiinfened from
beiraviors. Maturation and rearning u,
Construction of scales for
may not
Urñä- ã*áti*"f outbursts' but such training
resard to development. During infuncy,
r"f.' "dut' the actual
viõral indices of negative emotionality -uy
older children must be
*ril u,
on an understanding thattemperament
at various
äimensions are expressed differently
a trait are
ugtt {9 tft"1 somé behaviors
nãt evident during the
control" is
temperament ouäliw of
i98Ð',À iurther consideration is the impact of
strategies and environmental conditions
complexperceptions"fJi;¡h;i,andthewårld ln ¡etravio.atitvl.. tndiuiduals learn to moderate
alter the behavioral expression or t"-p.ruåäït.
trt! *ntt¡9io" oîintense affect and salient
Eaton (1995) noted thJ;;;;rritv ot rón.tu:"ö
of situations such as
individual differences in developmentaiìrai
Oi'mension' fãt ãipetitnte' As the
iectories within u,r,niäru*.ntai
interplav with emotions and
uecåääil; f"";tui .r
instance, ct
(sroufe, schork, Motti,
in relative r"urruinãrr îiin ùrriñi"ral stvle
older, but individuality
enåìftãt iawrosti, & LaFreniere' 1984)' and these
remains a meaningfuicãnsideration.
reason to examine developmental
the possibility
one another'
is reciprocally.influence
- 'Þnysiótogical changes
o.f maturation in
the quality as
pro..üti, con¡unótion with experienies
to weli as the numbèr of ( 99 l provide
which was noted by Eaton with regard
a:t cótosmittr and Rorhbart
is first seen
months may be related ,o n"gäìiJ"
is then indexed in a
observable activity rever. Activity differencJs
without locomotion and
emotionality, but other processes may U"'màrã
varietyof ag".'u¡ntopd-1111?t^:":l as crawling
relevant at older ages.
ot *ãttinf'. Manifestations of activity level
Goldsmith and Rothbart (1991) proposed
three principles wiih regard to "on.tr,í.iüË
(i*ài"" I Eatãn' 1995)' As children
to the
t*ry:^t::,of seif-re*ulation by Rothbart
ment: (a) behavloraiäunift'tution' of ætpãtaproposed
conception of temperamént
mental dispositions change during development;
and hËr colleazutt) btto*ei inõreasingly
ft) the elicitors of temperãment relat:d.be.ltaviors The'efo'e'dirãensíonssuchasself-regulationthat
òhange with development; and (c) i"di;il;l
Ot¡fitntlv to various ages of children need
differences in the expression of t.','p"ruriJii ennlV investi eätion (Prior, 1992)'
i" fùrtrt"r
dispositions can be ;îäñffi;å"*lät,n.*
Appropriaiebehavioral manifestations ofthe
the temperam"nr r.iutãã trait, úy ttre stfength
expected to change
ír,"r. pri"ãiprã. underSÅngiemperament are(1977)
the trait or some ;;ñ;ü.
rtä"""vJ ;ith;é". íhomäs and chess temperament
arricurated uv colisåiir,-un¿ no*ru"ri
ol¿.rìri* ,h.:ìdh";i"r"l criteria for any
to be sysrematically applied tochilar.n
functioning develops and evolves'
fä"i p-tytftofogical
elicitors oftemperamËntal responses such.,
or pleasure fras U."n-r'tiåi.¿'in tf," "d;;;;
il ü._gii+itional identiry of the characteristic'"
thrõugh conrrived raboratory situations. ItJriö
levels of
(p, tl?) As Kagan (199-8) noted' high
ut ruí.iãgît
prototypicat ,ituutioîî,-iriú.v
to be
timid and subdued behaviors
as behav iorat styre
appears to be
*or. ,o,*tiãio
year' Kagan suggested that a
infunrc and todO-íers during the second
more-abstract term is needed
to describe
thãn to older children. Beyond certain ugr.,-ò;ã
temperament qualitv that connects initabilitv
cannot assume
d;;ãÀ the first vearïitt' ti*iditv in the second
simply by observing uätrà"ìãî"irrvl;.
School Psychologt Review, T998, Vol.27,
year (perhaps ease of arousability to negative
stimuli). Most temperament scales designed for
different age groups vary items according to age
appropriateness of the behavior. One exception
is the DOTS-R, which identifìed age-continuous
dimensions and items. Assessment techniques
need to accommodate the child's behavioral
repertoire, but at the same time retain the same
underlying temperament construct.
Temperament Traits as
Continuous or Categorical
endorsed (e.g., Jackson, 197 O).Dropping extreme
behaviors from temperament rating scales
precludes finding qualitatively distinct subgroups
that are rare in a population. Moreover, the
application of factor anal¡ic techniques to a
truncated item pool restricts the concepts that
emerge. Again, the "blending" of methods and
constructs must be understood so that data and
conceptualizations are meaningful for practice.
Interplay of Temperaments
Temperament comes into play differently
The continuum-category dichotomy has
implications for the assessment of temperament.
The continuum approach assumes that extremes
of normal variation can be defined in terms of
the number ofitems endorsed on a scale, whereas
the category approach would seek qualitatively
distinct features of behaviors. The contrast
between conceptualizing temperament athibutes
as continuous or discrete also applies at the
biological level. Kagan (1994) reasoned that the
continuum approach would apply to the inhibition-disinhibition trait if it could be demonstrated that brain physiology varied only in the
degree ofarousal ofneural processes rather than
being qualitatively different. Accordingly,
distinct biological patterns mapping onto specific
behavioral processes should be a basis for the
Another aspect of the continuum category
distinction involves the consideration that
extreme placement on two or more tempera-
mental dimensions that are continuous may
constitute a distinct category. Stern, Arcus,
Kagan, Rubin, and Snidman (1995) demonstrated
a model for treatment of data that combines
measures on a continuum with categorical
profiles determined according to an a priori
theory. This procedure can be useful by permitting the detection of qualitatively different
groups and as a tool for refining theory.
Theultimate purpose for engaging in debates
such as the continuum category question is to
develop constructs and measures that faithfully
reflectphenomena as they occur in nature. When
contrasting various perspectives, it is important
to acknowledge the quirks of statistical conventions that limit the applicability of the data. For
instance, norm-referenced questionnaires are
generally designed to maximize variability
among individuals, and this goal can be accomplishedby eliminating items that are infrequently
according to specific contexts partly because
different demands of situations applyto different
temperament attributes and partly because of
prior experience. Moreover, responses in a given
context involve the reciprocal influence of
multiple attributes. For example, social approach
is generally seen as a favorable trait, linked with
positive emotion (Sanson, Smart, Prior,
Oberklaid, & Pedlow, 1994). However, if social
approach is coupled with high activity and high
distractibility, the child's overtures may be inept
(mistimed, intrusive, or inappropriate). Indeed
peer rejected children are described as making
frequent social approaches that are rebuffed
(Asher & Coie, 1990).
The difficult constellation of temperament
characteristics identified by Thomas, Chess, and
Birch (1968) has been a popular and useful
concept in the temperament literature (Prior,
1992). Thomas et al. designated five of their
identified temperamental dimensions as belonging to the difficult cluster: low approach
(initial aversion), slow adaptability (to change),
inegular biological rh¡hmicity, high intensity in
emotional expression, and frequent negative
mood. The notion of one constellation of
temperaments representing the difficult child may
be useful for the early years when caregiving is
the dominant concern. However, later in
development there may be a multiplicity of
patterns that relate to various types of problems
in various settings. Among a normal sample of
children aged 8 to 12,parent reported problem
behaviors causing "friction" in the household
grouped into five distinct factors and were
predicted by different combinations of the nine
NYLS temperament dimensions (Teglasi &
MacMahon, 1990). Low persistence was a
prominent source of difficulty for school aged
children. Furthermore, this temperament dimen-
siofi was associated with different types of
Temperament Constructs
problem behaviors in conjunction with other
iemperament traits. For example, a set of
temperament dimensions including low persisténce, high intensity, and low adaptability
predicted scores on the Low Self-Direction Factor
ôf ttre problem behavior scale. Low ratings on
temperamental persistence was also a predictor
of the Apathy Factor of the problem-behavior
scale but in concert with avoidance and negative
Future studies need to clarify implications
of temperament dimensions singly and in
combination on the development of problematic
behaviors and adjustment problems at various
ages. Some aspects of temperament such as
distractibility have vastly different impli cations
for adjustment during infancy (as it contributes
to soóthability) versus the school years (as it
disrupts persistence). Additionally, with increasing áge, the regulation and organization of
developments in the cognitive areas as they
interplay with emotions and with behavioral style.
A conceptual understanding of the meaning of a
temperament trait such as shyness for a given
indfvidual must incorporate components in the
behavioral, cognitive, affective, and selfregulative domains
they reciprocally influence
A shy child may choose not to
withdraw from certain situations but may
one another.
manifest feelings of timidity through general
demeanor, verbal expressiveness, and selfevaluation. Various elements of emotion,
cognition, and behavior may define individual
profiles within the shyness dimension' Table 2
shows selected examples of how temperament
dimensions can be elaborated and refined.
Age-Appropriate Measures
behavior exerts greater influence on adjustment.
Specific suggestions for designing agemeasures follow from this review.
-1. Refine response parameters to reflect the
Relinement of Measures
greater complexity and differentiation of behavior
with development. Commonly assessed response
in laboratory studies with young
ðhildren have been duration, latency, and
Clarifying Dimensions
When a dimension is identified asbelonging
to the temperament rubric, it may be clarified in
light of considerations described previously: (a)
situation-specific refinements of temperament
dimensions to reflect variability in their expres-
intensity. However, other parameters that tap self-
sion in different situational contexts; (b)
identification of multiple facets of specific
dimensions by parsing constructs such as activity
level, distractibility, or fear into multiple
components; (c) separating global and specif,rc
components ofbroader temperament dimensions
such as negative affect or self-regulation. As
children mature, self-regulation becomes more
complex, functioning as a higher-order variable
that may differentially influence specific
dimensions of temperament. Self-regulation can,
therefore, be defined in ways specific to each
temperament dimension, but can also be designated as a separate, more global dimension;
and (d) designating aspects of behavior, cognition, and emotion as components of temperament dimensions that influence one another. Just
as a coin cannot be fully described without
including both sides, a more complete understanding of a given temperament dimension
requires detailing its place within the functional
whole. Therefore, in applying temperament
constructs, the practitioner must consider
regulative aspects of behavior might entail
modulation, organization, or attunement to
2. Relate temperament to the organization
of the subjective world by systematically
exploring how developmental change in the
situational elicitors correspond to changes in the
meaning of stimuli. Children with similar
temperamental tendenciesto be irritable may vary
in the type ofprovocation thattriggers reactions.
Some may react to isolated events (e'g., not
getting a promised treat), whereas others may
iespond to perceived violation ofprinciple (a rule
seems unfair).
3. Trace the expression of identified traits
such as irritability at various ages. Distractibility
is apotentially useful dimension thathas notbeen
age appropriately refined and measured beyond
the early years.
4. Examine how temperament components
interplay differently at different ages. Affective,
cognitive, behavioral, and self-regulative
components of behavior may differ in salience
and ease of measurement at various ages.
5. Identify key situational elements and
types ofelicitors across the age span for specific
têmperament attributes. Expectations and tasks
School Psychologt Review,1998, Vol.27, No.4
Table 2
Selected Examples of How Temperament Dimensions Can be Elaborated and Refined
Distractibility by Extraneous Stímuli
Type and intensity of external stimuli
Distraction by external stimuli when engrossed in selected activity
Distraction by external stimuli when working on assigned school related tasks
Duration of Attention
1. Conversation (peers, adults)
2. Structured seat work (school, home)
3. Self-selectedactivity
4. Assigned task or chore
Identifying Multiple Facets of a Dimension
By extraneous stimuli
By less relevant stimuli but pertinent to the task or situation
By unrelated ideas or thoughts (internal stimuli)
B. Activity Level
1. How active? How energetic?
How is it expressed and in what circumstances (e.g., motoric, verbal)?
How well-controlled or modulated to circumstances?
How pu¡poseful?
What activities are selected, if given a choice?
Self-Regulation Delineated as a Component of Specific Dimensions and as a Broader
Self-Regulatory Aspects of Emotion (lemperament)
Maintaining emotional arousal or intensity within the range that permits adaptive cognitive,
emotional, and behavioral functioning
Appropriateness of emotion to eliciting event
Consistency of emotional responses
Broader Aspects of Self-Regulation (Personality)
Extent to which behavior is governed by rules versus immediate extemal consequences
Degree to which behaviors, thoughts, or emotional expressions are systematic, organized, or
planful versus haphazard, unmodulated, or undirected
Table 2 (continued)
Selected Examples of IIow Temperament Dimensions Can be Elaborated and Refined
Affective, Cognitive, Behavioral, and Self-Regulatory Components of Specific Temperament
A. Attention
Cognitive--dishactibility or tendency for attention to be pulled by external or internal stimuli
or by details within the task. Awareness is dominated by the most salient stimulus versus selective
and flexible attentional focus and shift (resulting in active, planful, systematic processing of
Behavioral-actions may be inconsistent and subject to current stimulus or environmental
conditions. Difficuþ with persistence, task completion, rule-governed behavior, or meeting
Emotional-¡ange and quality of interest; tendency to overreact to events considered in isolation
rather than in context
Self-regulatory--degree to which cognitive, affective, and behavioral components are coordinated
and expressed in organized, systematic, and self-directed responses
B. Actívity
Cognitive-tempo of thinking, alertness to environmental detail, speed of processing
Behavioral-motoric expression (constantly moving, restless), pace and amount of action, and
of verbiage
Affective-intensity, energy, vigor, or immediacy in the expression of affect
Self-regulatory--difficulty with focusing attention on most important points, modulating attention
(disengãging, shifting, engaging), and active strategic use of attention. Regulation ofmovement,
verbalization, affective state, and information processing to the demands of the situation (e.g.,
classroom, library, plaYground)
Cognitive-monitoring and evaluating emotions, discerning the source of affect (differentiating
internal and external), understanding rules and boundaries for emotional expressions. Less
conscious cognitive processes such as affective tone of thoughts and memories or mental sets
that have developed through affective-cognitive processes (e.g., selective attention to affectcongruent information) applied to the interpretation of prior experience
Behãvioral--overt (verbal-non-verbal) expressions ofaffect; patterns ofapproach-avoidance
related to affective response to situations
Affective-subjectively experienced feelings
Self-regulatory---enhancing, inhibiting, or maintaining emotional arousal within boundaries that
permit the experience of comfort without sacrificing efficiency or flexibility in meeting the
affective, cognitive, and behavioral demands of the situation
vary with age and call into play different ferences which should be systematically incorcomponentslf t.mp.raments, singly, or in porated into assessment approaches.
6. Place greater emphasis on choices
preferences in the measurement of temperament
*ith otdrt children.
The self-regulative
aspect of
temperament is frequently eipressed in
Connecting Measures to Constructs
The central tenets of temperament theory
promote the view of human behavior as the
School Psychologt Review,
product of biological, psychological, and social
factors. The assessment of stylistic characteristics
of individuality such as being energetic, outgoing,
or sociable as being typical oftemperament (Buss
& Plomin, 1984; Thomas & Chess, 1977)
provides an important starting point. The
extension ofthe concept ofbehavioral style from
infancy to childhood and adolescence must
account for the greater complexity of behavior.
One way to approach this challenge is to identifli
central processes such as arousability (Strelau,
1994) and relate the construct to various ways of
assessing temperament that include physiological,
behavioral, and psychological components. In
doing so, it is important to keep in mind
situational specificity and implications of
measures for different age groups.
I998,Vol. 27, No. 4
temperamental style (how) and its impact on the
content (what) and purpose (why) of behavior.
Table 3 illustrates how the construct of distractibility, defined in terms of cognitive,
emotional, and behavioral styles might be linked
to the content ofbehavior. It standsto reason that
the style of thinking and producing ideas and the
specific content of awareness are interdependent
in cohesive ways. A distractible child whose
attention is drawn by certain types ofhivial detail
will come to view experiences in aparticular light
(e.g., awareness dominated by the here and now)
so that the content of thoughts and framework
for interpreting events will reflect that style. The
temperament view of self-regulation refers to the
basic processes or behavioral styles involved in
optimizing stimulation, alertness, and affective
Another way to extend the usefulness of
arousal. Preferences for specific activities to
temperament constructs to understanding children
at various ages is to clarify relationships between
regulate affect, however, can be characterized as
content. Though not studied under the tempera-
Table 3
Examples of Linking Specific Components of Temperamental Style and Content
Individual's Distractibilitv
A. Style
l. Ideational style
How the individual generates and organizes ideas in relation to external input (e.g., daydreaming
and distraction by one's thoughts; preoccupation with immediate rewards; linear or associative thinking
style; changing interest or focus with most salient external stimulation).
2. Behavioral style
Responsiveness to noises or stimulation such
being drawn away from goal directed tasks or activities
by impinging stimuli.
3. Emotional style
How emotions are evoked or changed in response to immediate stimuli or more complex considerations
such as intentions or long term implications (e.g., being distracted from one's distress by a pleasing
diversion versus needing to address its source).
B. Content
1. Mastery of social skills
High distractibility may interfere with competency to follow conversation or to focus on and respond
to the main ideas of a social exchange (or class discussion). This process would not only disrupt the
acquisition of social skills but also their application when distracted.
2. Self-direction
Tendencies to react to immediate stimulation may hamper engagement in purposeful actions aimed
at long term goals, or ideals. The individual may be more vulnerable to peer pressure and may have
difficulty keeping commitments when wrapped up in the concern of the moment. Extreme
distractibility may even interfere with the formulation of long{erm intentions.
Temperament Constructs
ment rubric, the style of making choices such as
being deliberate or haphazard is distinct from,
yet related to the type of choice. The lihks
between style and content ofbehavior across age
goups helps clarifu the mechanisms by which
temperament infl uences devel opment.
Items on current temperament scales tapping
Cooper, 1993). Certain temperament profiles may
contribute to "friction" in the home (Teglasi &
MacMahon, 1990) or difficulties in school
(Martin, 1988; Martin et al., 1994). Carey (this
issue) provides guidelines for differentiating
between adjustment problems due to extremes
temperament and a diagnosable disorder.
specific behaviors have been written without
An individual's temperament profile oper-
determining how extreme the behavior to be rated
is on the construct being measured. Behavioral
ates within the context of a functionally whole
person. Therefore, temperament scales cannot be
used as "add ons." Rather, temperament concepts
examples should be defined in terms of their
position in reference to the continuum of the
construct in question. For example, a specific
behavior relating to level of activity such as "my
child runs rather than walks" should be identifiable in terms ofits extremity on that dimension.
More systematic work is needed to assure that
items assigned to represent temperament
dimensions relate clearly and specifically to
identifi ed constructs and subconstructs. Furthermore, the equivalence of specific items across
ages and contexts need to be addressed.
Application of Temperament
Constructs to Practice
Temperament constructs provide the
psychologist with a framework to organize
information from various sources and perspectives. School psychologists have the
flexibility to obtain information about temperament in multiple ways. In addition to using
temperament questionnaires, they can capitalize
on opporfunities to observe behavioral styles of
children and youth in various naturalistic settings
such as the classroom, cafeteria, or playground.
Further opportunities to observe temperamental
individuality arise during the course of evaluations, play observations, and therapeutic interactions. Incorporating temperament theory into
frameworks for practice influences the professional's approach to assessment, intervention, and
Assessment. The type of information sought
to explain the behaviors orphenomena of concern
depends on the professional's framework. A
framework that incorporates temperament
enables the practitioner to recognize and explain
syndromes representing extremes of the normal
continuum such as negative emotional reactivity
that do not meet diagnostic criteria such as for
depression but may represent high levels
distress (e.g., Goodyer, Ashby, Altham, Yize,
must be applied systematically to the entire
assessment process. For instance, given that prior
experience interplays with temperament, their
joint contributions must be considered when obtaining a developmental history. Westen (1998)
described a functional assessment of personality
as evaluating how "the individual tends to function cognitively, affectively and behaviorally
under certain conditions relevant to psychological
and social adaptation" (p. ll8). This definition
can be taken a step further by identifu ingthefunction ormeaning of the behavior forthe individual.
Identif,;ing th efunction of a maladaptive behavior
for the child would consider its possible temperamental roots and other reasons why the behavior
overrides the typical expectations ofthe context
(classroom, home, peer group). Thus, a functional
assessment of behavior in a particular environment differentiates among responses to inappropriate contingencies, temperamentally based reactions, learned maladaptive coping styles to manage temperamental reactions, difficulty handling
the imposed challenges, and deliberate attempts
to manipulate others. Accordingly, withdrawal
behaviors may serve the function of coping with
reactivity to novel situations (see Henderson &
Fox, this issue) and/or avoiding situations or tasks
that are uncomfortable for other reasons such as
being boring or difficult to understand.
Understanding temperamental roots ofbehavior enables a functional assessment that explains
patterns of behavior or performance in terms of
the interplay between intrinsic qualities (temperament), personality (learned coping, goals), and
demands of tasks and situations as well as contingencies. Variation in performance across activities would be viewed ín terms ofthe underlying
processes (e.g., attention, emotional regulation,
cognitive process) that link relevant personal
characteristics and functional demands of specific
tasks or situations. Accordingly, prediction from
one task or situation to another would be based
on similaritv of functional demands.
School Psychologt Review,1998,
Programming and intervention. The range
of adjustment problems that can be addressed,
the types ofpopulations to be served, and the
mechanisms of change invoked depend on the
professional's framework. Equipped with
understandings that acknowledge multiple
pathways to normal development and to the
manifestation of dysfunction, the school psychologist can serve the broad anay ofstudents and
pursue systematic approaches to programs that
promote optimal development, prevent the
escalation ofrisk factors, and intervene in the face
of clinically significant distress or impairments
(see McClowry, this issue). Awareness of the
possibility of the development of dysfunction
with improperhandling of some temperamentally
prompted behaviors permits the school psychologist to provide a broad range of preventive
services. Additionally, temperament concepts
have implications for educatiõn and soc ialization
of children because they are pertinent to the
development of important personality variables
such as empathy (Eisenberg, Wentzel, & Harris,
this issue), conscience (Kochanska, 1993, 1995),
and schema (Teglasi & Epstein, this issue). The
key to using temperament constructs to intervene
stems from the professional's understanding of
its contribution to the developmental process and
to the vicious cycles thatperpetuate maladaptive
responses, thereby disrupting long term adjustment.
ConsultatÍon. What professionals communicate to parents, teachers, and other caregivers depends on their framework for understanding the child and the presenting concerns.
The notion of temperament as mediating the
goodness-of-fit between the person and the
environment elaborates the interactionist
viewpoint that assumes that individuals influence
their environment
being shaped by them
(Bandura, 1986).
In consulting with caregivers, noting the
contribution of factors intrinsic to the child has a
profound influence on the working relationship
between consultant and consultee (see Carey, this
issue; McClowry, this issue). First, an understanding of the child's individuality avoids
blaming the caregiver and permits the separation
of caregiver's intent from the impact on the child.
Second, an understanding ofthe child's temperament likewise avoids blaming the child. A parent
or teacher may realize that the child does not
deliberately intend to be annoying but has
Vol.27, No.4
difficulty adapting to change or inhibiting the
expression of negative affect. Third, acknowledging that some temperament characteristics are
challenging for caregivers normalizes some of
the frustrations experienced in caring for the
child. At the same time, caregivers can be
encouraged to recognize their own responses that
promote maladaptive cycles and to substitute
alternative strategies. Because children and
caregivers have unique temperaments, sometimes
an insight into each can clarify the reciprocal
impact of one on the other.
The following vignette demonstrates how an
understanding of temperament can enhance the
professional's work (even without formal
measurement): parents sought an evaluation of
their 4-ll2 year old son because of daily temper
tantrums. A careful interview revealed that the
tantrums occurred when the child was called to
the dinner table. At this time, the child was
typically engrossed in an activity (usually
building with blocks) that he did not want to leave.
Because the interview did not raise any red flags
signalling more serious issues, the psychologist
asked the parents to consider the possibility that
the child was expressing his temperamental
persistence and intense negative reaction to being
interrupted. Before embarking on a comprehensive evaluation, the parents agreed to try a
strategy based on an understanding oftheir son's
temperament. Ratherthan expecting him to come
to dinner at a moment's notice, the plan was to
permit him to disengage gradually f¡om his
activity by giving two reminders separated by five
minutes. As ananged, the parents called one week
later and reported that their son was no longer
having tantrums. This example is atypical in the
ease of its resolution. However, it does demonstrate the value of incorporating temperament
constructs into the professional's framework for
practice. Such awareness of temperamental
individuality permits the professional to guide
caregivers, teachers, and parents tolyard more
responsive and constructive engagement with the
In sum, practitioners who understand
temperament constructs can evaluate temperament informally and use available temperament
rating scales flexibly. More importantly,
temperament constructs enrich frameworks that
guide practice. This review highlights shortcomings in the measurement oftemperament and
proposes that strategies for future scale development incorporate advances in conceptualization
Temperament Constructs
and examine assumptions about definitional
properties of specific tempemment dimensions.
Although relationships between temperament
measures and variables that are important for
adjustment are well-documented, fu ture research
that clarifies constructs and refines measures
would increase the applicability of temperament
constructs to the practice of psychology.
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Appendix A
Description of Temperament Measures
Child Temperament Questionnaire (CTQ)
Authors: Thomas & Chess, 1977
This 72-item parent report questionnaire designed for the
3- to 7-year-old age range covers the nine dimensions
derived from parent observation of infants.
Revised Infant Temperament Questionnaire (RITQ)
Authors: Carey & McDevin, 1978
This measure contains 95 items to be completed by
parents based on the nine dimensions of Thomas and
Chess (1977).
Toddler Temperament Scale (TTS)
Authors: Fullard, McDevitt, & Carey, 1984
This 97-item parent report measure was designed to assess
nine dimensions of temperament (Thomas & Chess, 1977)
in l- to 3-year-old children.
Chess, S. (1977). Temperament and
development. New York: Bnrnner/Mazel.
Thomas,4., Chess, S., & Birch, H. G. (1968). Temperament
Behavioral Style Questionnaire (BSQ)
Autho¡s: McDevitt & Carey, 1978
and behavíor disorders in children. New York: New
York University Press.
Thompson, R. 4., & Lamb, M. E. (1984). Continuity and
This I O0-item questionnaire was designed to assess the
change in socioemotional development during the second
year. In R. M. Emde & R. J. Harmon (Eds.),Continuities
and discontínuilies in developnezt. New Yo¡k: Plenum.
Vaughn, 8., Bradley, C. F., Joffe, L. S., Seifer, R., &
Barglow, P. (1987). Matemal characteristics measured
prenatally predict ratings of temperamental "difficulty"
on the Carey Infant Temperament Questionnaire.
Developmental Psychologt, 23, 152-161.
Watson, D., & Clarlq L. A. (1984). Negative aflectivity: The
disposition to experience negative emotional states.
Psychological Bulletin, 96, 465-490.
Iüatson, D., Clark, L. 4., & Carey, G. (1988). Positive and
negative affectivity and their relation to anxiety and
nine temperament dimensions proposed by Thomas and
Chess (1977) from parent report with children ages 3 to 7.
Middle Childhood Temperament Questionnaire (MCTQ)
Authors: Hegvik, McDevitt, & Carey, 1982
This 99-item parental rating scale for children between 8
and l2 is based on the nine dimensions model of Thomas
and Chess, 1977. Factor anal¡ic studies found support for
fewer than nine factors (e.g., McClowry, Hegviþ &
Teglasi, 1993).
Infant Characteristics Questionnaire (lCQ)
Authors: Bates, Freeland, & Lounsbury, 1979
(See also Bates & Bayles, 1984). This 32-item factor
analytically derived scale designed to study correlates
School Psychologt Review, 1998, Vol.
difücult infant temperament includes the following
sur¡lmary scores for infants being Fussy-Difficult,
Unadaptable, Persistent, Unsociable. Diffi cultness has at
its-core the frequent and intense expression ofnegative
Dimensions of Temperament Suwey-Revised (DOTS-R)
Authors: Windle & Lemer, 1986
This 54-item questionnaire to assess age continuous
asFects of temperament from early childhood to young
adulthood extends and refines the nine dimensional model
originally proposed by Thomas and Chess, 1977. Ratings
can be provided by parent, teacher, and self.
Teacher Temperament Questionnaire- Short Form
Authors: Keogh, Pullis, & Cadwell, 1982
This 23-item short form was designed on the basis of
factor analysis of the 64-item Teacher Temperament
Questionnaire of Thomas and Chess (1977). The itcms
represented eight of the nine NYLS dimensions and
clustered into three factors: Task Orientation, personalSocial Flexibilit¡r, and Reactivify.
Temperament Assessment Battery for Children-Revised
Authors: Martin & Bridger (Unpublished manuscript)
The parent and teacher versions ofthe TABC-R is
designed for use within the age range of 3 to 7 year-s. Both
forms are designed to assess 4 temperament
characteristics: Negative Emotionaiity, Inhibition,
Activity Level, Task Persistence. The parent fo¡m consists
of 37 items, and the teacher form consists of 27 items.
School-Age Temperament Inventory (SAT!
Author: McClowry, 1995
A 38-item parent report measure for children ages 8 to 1 1
years. A 4-factor conceptualization for the instrument was
developed based on a review of the literature. Items were
designed to sample the following four dimensions:
Approach-Withdrawal, Task Persistence, Negative
Reactivity, Energy.
Emotionaliry, Activity and Sociabiliry (EAS)
Authors: Buss & Plomin, 1984
The scale has published reliability and validity data at all
ages throughout childhood and adolescence (e.g., Gibbs,
\9eves, & Cunningham, 1987, Plomin & Dunn, 1986).
Th¡ee forms are available for completion by parent,
teache¡ or subject (child/adolescent). All three forms
consist of20 items. Shyness which is not considered a
temperament but a derivative of sociability also is
assessed with this measure.
Colorado Childhood Temperament Inventory (CCTI)
Authors: Rowe & Plomin, 1977
Combines the Thomas and Chess (1977) temperament
characteristics with EASI dimensions of temperament
identified by Buss and Plomin (1975). The I, impulsivity
di_mension, was subsequently dropped in the development
of the EAS. The six factors comprising the CCTI arê
Sociability, Emotionality, Activity, Attention SpanPersistence, Soothability, Reaction to Food.
Infant Behavior Questioruraire (IBQ)
Author: Rothbart, 1981
This 96-item measure was designed for 3- to l2-month-old
children but has been used in research with children
ranging in age from two weeks to l9-ll? months
(Thompson & Lamb, 1984; Worobey & Blajda 1989).
scores are available on six subscales: Activity,
Distress to Limits, Fear, Du¡ation of Orienting, Smiling
and Laughter, Soothability.
Toddler Behavior Assessment Questionnaire (TBAe)
Author: Goldsmith, 1996
(See Goldsmith & Rorhbarr, 1991; Goldsmith, Elliotl &
Jaco, 1986) Scales are Activity Level, Anger proneness,
Social Fear, Pleasure, Interest-Persistence. Although scales
are somewhat similar to those of the IBe, the items were
not upward extensions but were chosen for ageappropriateness. Ratings can be provided by parents and
Children's Behavior Questionnaire (CBe)
Authors: Rothbart, Ahadi, & Hershey, 1994
This instrument is a caregiver measure developed for
chjldren between the ages of3 and 7. The foilôwing
subscales are included: Activity Level, Anger/Frustration,
App:oach-Anticipation, Attentional Focusing, DiscomforÇ
Falling Reactivity-Soorhability, Fear, High Intensity
Pleasure, Impulsivity, Inhibitory Control, Low Intensity
Pleasure, Perceptual Sensitivity, Sadness, Shyness,
Smiling and Laughter.
Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire (EATe)
Authors: Capaldi & Rothbart, 1992
This 92-item measure includes
scales that incorporate
the dimensional structure proposed by Derryberry &
Rothbart (1988) for adult temperament characteristics. The
scales are Sensitivit5r, Autonomic Reactivity, Motor
Activation, Fear, Initability, Shyness, Sadness, High and
Low Intensity Pleasure, Activity Level, Attentional
Control. Three conceptual groupings emerged tbrough
factor analysis by the authors conesponding to negaiive
aspects of temperament, positive aspects of temperamenr,
behavioral inhibition.
Reactivity Rating Scale (RRS)
Authors: Friedensberg & Strelau, 1982
Three adulrrepof versions are available for the following
ag€ grcups: preschoolers, elementary, and secondar¡r
school students. The 9-item scales assess general concepts
on continua and are based on the two overarching
dimensíons of temperament (reactivity and activity)
posited by Shelau.
Stn¡chue of Temperament Questionnaire (STe)
Author: Rusalov, 1989
The instrument has eight independent scales based on
factor analysis and a social desirability scale. The STe is a
105-item scale for adult selÊreport developed on the basis
of neurophysiologically grounded theory. Scales
operationalize neurophysiological states. Subsequent
studies (e.g., Dumenci, 1996) confirmed three factors
which are similar to domains included in other
temperament inventories: Activity, Emotionality,
Pavlovian Temperament Survey @TS)
(American English version)
Authors: Newberry, Clarþ Crawford, Stelau, Angleitner,
Jones, & Eliasz,1997
Temperament Constructs
The PTS was derived from the Shelau Temperamental
Inventory (STI; Strelau & Angleitner, 1994; Strelau,
Angleitner, Bantelmann, & Ruch, 1990). This self report
inventory for adults contained 66 items tapping
dimensions of Strength of Excitation, Strength of
Inhibition, Mobility of Nervous System Process. Each
scale contains situation- and/or response-speciflrc factors'
General factors were found for shength of excitation and
mobility. The Pavlovian tradition has conceptual links to
research employing concepts ofcentral nervous system
arousal (e.g., Strelau, 1983; Eysencþ 1967; Gray,1982).
These concepts are also linked to aspects oftemperament
represented on scales developed in the US (e.g., those
developed by Rothbart and colleagues, 1994).
Hedwig Teglasi, PhD, is an Associate Professor and Co-director of the School Psychology Program of
the Counseling and Personnel Services Department, University of Maryland, College Park. Among her
research interests is a focus on various units of assessment for understanding personality such as
temperamentprocesses and analysis ofnanative. Teglasi also is interested inthe application ofpersonality
theory to principles and programs for prevention and intervention services'

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