Paths to Successful Development: Personality in the Life Course

Paths to Successful Development: Personality in the Life Course

Paths to Successful Development: Personality in the Life Course

Paths to Successful Development: Personality in the Life Course


The influence of the lifespan approach has been an important feature of recent research in developmental psychology, as has a growing interest in the relationship between personality and development. Edited by two distinguished psychologists and including the work of many of the leading figures in the field, this important new book explores the relationship between personality and development. It is unique in focusing on successful development, whereas developmental psychology in the past seems to have focused almost entirely on problem behavior and risk of maladaption.


Traditional approaches to successful development have focused almost entirely on socialization practices expected to lead to optimal outcomes. An implicit assumption of much research on achievement (e.g., McClelland, Atkinson, Clark, and Lowell, 1953), altruism (e.g., Hoffman, 1975), and morality (e.g., Bandura, 1977), for example, has been that parental and societal influences affect all children in a similar manner. More recent work, however, indicates that different children may respond to similar socialization efforts in predictably divergent ways, with the individual characteristics of the child influencing pathways to both successful and maladaptive outcomes. Characteristics of the child may also determine whether intervention is needed, as well as the strategies chosen by adults to influence change. Temperament research allows us to study interactions between individual and environmental influences, because it describes processes evident early in life from which social adaptations to environmental conditions develop. Whereas the child's personality will include skills, habits, and cognitive structures shaped through interaction with the environment, temperament provides the biological basis upon which these structures are built.

In this chapter, a brief introduction to temperament is presented and data from our laboratory on the developmental structure of temperament are discussed. We then review links between dimensions of temperamental variability and mechanisms of socialization. We propose that three broad temperamental systems: surgency, negative affectivity (including facets of fear and anger/frustration), and effortful control, can be seen early in life and are influential in the development of personality. In this discussion, interactions between temperament and environment that may lead to successful social development are highlighted.

Definitions of temperament

We have defined temperament as constitutionally based individual differences in reactivity and self-regulation, influenced over time by heredity . . .

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