Preservation of Two Infant Temperaments into Adolescence. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development

  • ID: 2247361
  • Book
  • 132 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd
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Temperament has been a central element of the on–going effort

to describe the distinctiveness of persons at every stage of

development. Many researchers have examined the relations of

temperament to emotions, behavior, and adjustment generally.

Fewer studies have focused primarily on the nature and structure

of temperament, however, and even fewer have examined

the developmental course of temperament. This Monograph

reports a significant exception. The authors undertook theoretically

relevant behavioral, biological, and self–report assessments

of a sample of 14–to–17 year olds who had been classified into

one of four temperamental groups at 4 months of age. Infant

temperamental categories were based on observed behavior

to a battery of unfamiliar stimuli. The infants classified as high

reactive (20 percent of the sample) displayed vigorous motor

activity and frequent crying. Those classified as low reactive (40

percent) displayed minimal motor activity and crying. About 25

percent of the infants, called distressed, showed minimal motor

activity but cried frequently, and 10 percent, characterized

by vigorous motoricity but little crying, were called aroused.

Previous evaluations of these children at 14 and 21 months,

and 4, 7, and 11 years had revealed that those children initially

classified as high reactive were most likely to be avoidant of

unfamiliar events at the early ages and emotionally subdued,

cautious, and wary of new situations at the later ages. By

contrast, initially low–reactive children had been the least

avoidant of unfamiliarity in the second year and most emotionally

spontaneous and sociable at the later ages. At age 11

years, assessments also had revealed that initially high–reactive

children were more likely than the low–reactive participants to

display right hemisphere activation in the EEG, a larger evoked

potential from the inferior colliculus, larger event related

waveforms to discrepant scenes, and greater sympathetic tone

in the cardiovascular system. In the follow–up of these individuals

reported here, adolescents (14 17 years of age) who had

been classified as high reactive in infancy were more likely than

initially low reactive participants to display sympathetic tone

in the cardiovascular system, to combine a fast latency with a

large magnitude of the evoked potential from the inferior colliculus,

and to show shallower habituation of the event–related

potential to discrepant visual events. Moreover, compared to

their low–reactive agemates, initially high reactive adolescents

more often reported being subdued in unfamiliar situations,

experiencing a dour mood and anxiety over the future, and being

religious. An important finding is that behavior and biology were

more clearly dissociated in adolescence than at earlier ages.

However, infant temperamental category at 4 months remained

a powerful predictor of behavior in adolescence, suggesting that

the features that characterize the two temperamental biases by

initially high– and low–reactive are not completely malleable to

the profound effects of brain growth and experience.
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COMMENTARY: Laurence Steinberg 76.

COMMENTARY: Nathan A. Fox 81.



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Nathan A. Fox is Professor of Human Development at the University of

Maryland College Park. His area of research interest is in social and

emotional development of infants and young children. He has developed

methods for assessing brain activity in infants and young children during

tasks designed to elicit a range of emotions. His work is funded by the

National Institutes of Health and includes a MERIT award. He currently

serves on the Biobehavioral Sciences standing review panel for NICHD.

Dr. Fox was awarded the Distinguished Scholar Teacher award from the

University of Maryland in 2005.

Laurence Steinberg (Ph.D., 1977, Cornell University) is the Distinguished
University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology at
Temple University. His research focuses on biological and contextual
influences on normative and atypical development during adolescence,
most recently, on the connections between brain maturation and adolescent

Jerome Kagan (Ph.D., Yale University) is professor of psychology emeritus
at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is the author of
Galen s Prophecy (1984), Three Seductive Ideas (2002), An Argument for Mind
(2006), and with Nancy Snidman of The Long Shadow of Temperament (2004).
His interests include infant temperament, cognitive development and
emotional processes.

Nancy Snidman (Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles) is the EEG
Research Director of TRANSCEND (Treatment, Research And Neuro–
SCience Evaluation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) at Massachusetts
General Hospital. She is author with Jerome Kagan of The Long Shadow of
Temperament (2004). Her interests include biological correlates of temperament
and individual differences, autism and cognitive development.

Sara Towsley received her B.A. from Tufts University (2005) in clinical
psychology and her M.A. in psychology from Brandeis University (2007).
She is currently a research associate in the psychology department at
Brandeis University.

Vali Kahn received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr (1998) in psychology. She is
currently a graduate student in clinical psychology at University of
Massachusetts at Boston.

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