The relationship between temperament and personality over time and across the generations

Donna Marie Caro, Fordham University


This study presents findings about longitudinal and cross-generational similarities in temperament and personality that have emerged in the Children in the Community project, a large-scale, longitudinal study that has followed its subjects from 1975 to the present day. First, the relationship between offspring infant temperament and parent adult personality was examined in a sample of 117 parent-child dyads. Next, the longitudinal relationship between childhood temperament and adult personality was assessed in a sample of 75 subjects. Finally, the relationship between parent childhood temperament and offspring infant temperament was explored in a sample of 136 parent-child pairs. Cloninger's Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire was used to assess adult personality. Questions derived from Thomas and Chess' model of temperament were used to assess temperament in the parents when they were children while items based on Bates' model of difficult temperament were used to measure infant temperament in offspring. Data for the childhood temperament were collected when the subjects were between the ages of 18 months and 13 years old and were age-standardized to 9 years old. Offspring assessment occurred on average at 12 months of age. Bivariate correlations were used to evaluate all three hypotheses. Data were examined for the total sample as well for subsamples delineated by gender and familial role. Analysis of the data provided limited support for the study hypotheses. Multiple regression analyses were also conducted to control for parent and child sex, parent and child age and birth order. These analyses did not yield any additional significant results. A significant relationship emerged for sociability scales in offspring and their parents. Defiant infant behavior also correlated with parental social independence and difficult behavior in infants correlated with high levels of self-perceived control in parents. A significant relationship emerged between nonpersistent behavior in childhood and extravagance in adulthood. Poor attention span in childhood related to impulsiveness in adulthood. Intense expressions of anger in childhood related to apprehension in the face of novelty and risk in adulthood. No significant relationships emerged between parental childhood temperament and offspring infant temperament for the total sample. Implications for the assumptions underlying Cloninger's theory are discussed.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Personality

Recommended Citation

Caro, Donna Marie, "The relationship between temperament and personality over time and across the generations" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3271266.