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The Structure of Temperament and Personality Traits: A Developmental Perspective


  • Rebecca L. Shiner

    () (Colgate University)

  • Colin G. DeYoung

    (University of Minnesota)


In this chapter, we articulate a developmental perspective on personality traits from early childhood through adulthood. In the first section, we address two topics that are fundamental in defining the most important traits at each point in the life span: the relationship between temperament and personality and the methods used to ascertain the structure of traits in the temperament and personality research traditions. We argue in this section that temperament and personality are different ways of describing the same basic traits, with temperament research primarily focused on early-emerging individual differences and personality research focused on individual differences that appear later in childhood and continue into adulthood. In the second section, we describe the current status of the most prominent models of temperament, as well as the most widely-accepted personality trait model, the Big Five. In the third section, we articulate a structural model that integrates contemporary findings on temperament and personality traits from early childhood through adulthood. We use the Big Five trait structure, along with the trait of activity level, to organize this taxonomy. In the fourth section, we discuss the current research on the psychological and biological processes that underlie individual differences in the Big Five traits in childhood and adulthood. In the final sections, we offer concluding thoughts on the nature of personality trait development and suggestions for future research. This is an exciting time in the study of personality in part because of the marked progress in uncovering the basic structure of traits across the lifespan.

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  • Rebecca L. Shiner & Colin G. DeYoung, 2011. "The Structure of Temperament and Personality Traits: A Developmental Perspective," Working Papers 2011-025, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2011-025
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