Psychobiological Approach to the Development of Temperament 2
A Psychobiological Approach to the Development of Temperament
Temperament research investigates constitutionally based individual differences in basicpsychological processes of emotion, motivation and attention (Bates, 1989). As a domain of study itoccupies a particularly interesting location with respect to psychology and neuroscience. Although mostof temperament research completed to date is behavioral, temperamental differences can also be studiedat the neural systems level (see reviews by Gunnar, 1990, and Rothbart, 1989a). It is neverthelessimportant to remember that behavior is itself biological, a critical part of the adaptive functioning of theorganism (Gunnar, 1990).Our approach to temperament follows the distinction we have made between temperamentalreactivity and self-regulation, with reactivity defined as characteristics of the individual's reactions tostimulus change, reflected in the temporal and intensive parameters of the somatic, endocrine andautonomic nervous systems (Rothbart & Derryberry, 1981). Self-regulation is defined as processesfunctioning to modulate this reactivity, including behavioral patterns of approach and avoidance, andattentional orientation and selection (Rothbart & Posner, 1985). In this chapter, we first considerbehavioral dimensions of temperament, reviewing briefly some of the recent findings on higher orderfactors of individuality in temperament and personality. We then attempt to develop links between thesebroad dimensions and models from affective and cognitive neuroscience. Finally, a developmental modelresulting from this effort is described.
The "Big Three" and the "Big Five"
Over the past four decades, students of personality have used factor analytic methods to developa taxonomy of individual differences (Goldberg, 1990). In recent years, research in this area hasincreasingly identified a limited set of higher order factors for describing personality (Digman, 1990;John, 1989; McCrae & Costa, 1987). Although there remains considerable variability across studies inexactly how these superfactors are to be measured and defined, five higher order factors (the "Big Five")have frequently been extracted, including broad dimensions of 1) Neuroticism/Negative Emotionality, 2)Extraversion/Positive Emotionality, 3) Conscientiousness/Constraint, 4) Agreeableness and 5) Openness.When only three such superfactors are reported (the "Big Three"), they tend to correspond to the firstthree of the superfactors identified above: Neuroticism/Negative Emotionality, Extraversion/PositiveEmotionality, and Conscientiousness/Constraint (Tellegen, 1985).These taxonomic results have been exciting in a number of ways. First, the general factorsappear to emerge whether the measures involve self report or the report of others, and they emerge forboth trait-descriptive adjective and more specific behavioral items. Second, the general factors haveemerged from work on personality in children as well as adults (Digman, 1990). Finally and mostimportant for this paper, the "Big Three," as well as four of the "Big Five" factors show quite remarkablesimilarity to the dimensions of temperament emerging from studies on infancy and early childhood (Ahadi& Rothbart, in press; Martin, Wisenbaker, & Hutunen, in press; Rothbart, 1989a).
Higher Order Temperament Factors in Infancy and Childhood
In behavioral observations of newborn temperament employing the Brazelton Neonatal BehavioralAssessment Scale, four factors have frequently been identified, two of which include aspects of negativeemotionality (for more detail, see review by Rothbart, 1989b). These two factors include 1) irritability,tension and activity, 2) emotional state lability, rapidity of buildup and self-quieting, 3) alert orienting,and 4) response decrement during drowsiness and sleep (Strauss & Rourke, 1978). Kaye (1978) hasidentified a single negative reactivity factor appearing to combine the first two of Strauss and Rourke'sfactors, including peak of excitement, rapidity of buildup, and irritability.Laboratory studies have found levels of neonatal distress proneness to predict observed distress at1, 3 and 4 months (Birns, Barten & Bridger, 1969), distress at 9 months, and distress, lower attentivenessto objects and persons, and more changeable activity level at 24 months (Matheny, Riese & Wilson, 1985;Riese, 1987 in the Louisville Twin Study). Reports of stability of negative affect from the neonatal periodto 15 months have also been reported (Larson, DiPietro, & Porges, 1987), although the Louisville study did