Press release: "The stability of temperament from early childhood to early adolescence: A multi-method, multi-informant examination"
In their study, Dr. Daniel Kopala-Sibley* and colleagues investigated the stability of temperament across the span of childhood. For the study, they followed 559 children from age 3 to age 12, using multiple sources of information to measure temperament. Their findings show that there is some stability in temperament across childhood, but that there is also room for change. This is important, as it means that there is room for intervention in children. The study is published in the March/April issue of the European Journal of Personality.
Kopala-Sibley and colleagues examined the stability in three temperament traits: negative emotionality (stable tendencies towards feeling angry, fearful, or sad), positive emotionality (tendencies to experience high levels of positive and happy emotions), and effortful control (the ability to delay one impulse in favor of something less fun). At age 3, in addition to parent report, laboratory-based observations of the children’s temperament were made. Then at age 12, kid’s, mother and father reports were combined. By making use of different methods and informants, the study has a stronger measure of temperament at both timepoints. Their results suggest that there is modest stability in children’s temperament, meaning that based on a child’s temperament at 3 we can somewhat predict how they are going to be when they are 12. However, the study also shows that it isn’t completely fixed, which indicates that it is useful to intervene with children because there is room for change.
In addition, Kopala-Sibley stated in an interview for the European Journal of Personality’s blog, that the study’s findings are also interesting in a more general sense. He said, “You often hear people talk about “temperamentally difficult” children – or people in general – and implicit to that is the belief that temperament is a fixed, genetic thing that does not change over time; that how your child’s temperament is now is how they are always going to be.” The current study’s findings show that this general assumption may not be correct.
Correspondence about this research may be addressed to the lead author, Dr. Kopala-Sibley, The Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education, Teaching, Research and Wellness Building, University of Calgary, 3280 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 4Z6, Canada. Dr. Kopala-Sibley can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* University of Calgary, Department of Psychiatry, Cumming School of Medicine, Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education, Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Hotchkiss Brain Institute.