Temperament in Context

Temperament in Context

Temperament in Context

Temperament in Context

Synopsis

Although the importance of context has been emphasized by temperament researchers, until now there has been remarkably little systematic research on the unique role specific aspects of context play in the development and impact of temperament. The goal of this volume is to systematize current knowledge and theory on the role played by specific aspects of context in the etiology, expression, and influence of temperament, particularly for those aspects of temperament that are most likely to relate to later personality traits. Reflecting the editors' view that the interface between temperament and context is a bidirectional phenomenon, this volume focuses on two broad issues: 1) How does context moderate the expression, continuity, or consequences of individual differences in introversion-extraversion, sociability, emotionality, and inhibition (the I-ESEI family of traits)? 2) How do individual differences in the I-ESEI family of traits moderate the nature of characteristics of the individual's context? By bringing together outstanding international researchers who present their current research and theories, the editors systematize research contributions in the domain of contextual contributions to the I-ESIA family of traits and set the agenda for future research directions. Appropriate for use by scholars and practitioners in developmental science and family studies.

Excerpt

Temperament is traditionally defined as relatively stable, early appearing, biologically based individual traits (Rothbart & Bates, 1998). Individual differences in temperament along such dimensions as reactivity and self-regulation are viewed as an essential first step to individual variability in later personality patterns. Individual differences in temperament are thought to be related to individual genetic differences (Goldsmith, 1989; Plomin & Saudino, 1994), which in turn lead to individual differences in those aspects of central nervous system structure and neurochemistry that act to mediate individual differences in temperament (Calkins & Fox, 1994; Kagan, Reznick, & Snidman, 1989; Strelau, 1994).

Although an emphasis on the biological roots of temperament can be traced back to the early centuries of the present millennium (Diamond, 1974), historically there has also been speculation on the role played by nonbiological contextual influences such as climate and education (Jacques, 1881). For the purposes of this volume we define context as “organized conditions or patterns of external stimuli that impinge upon and have the probability of influencing the individual” (Wachs, 1992, p. 39). It is important to recognize that this broad definition of context can encompass both psychosocial (e.g., the family, culture) and biological conditions (e.g., physical ecology, diet, environmental toxins). the focus of this volume is primarily on the psychosocial context, given that there is only limited evidence available on the behavioral consequences associated with variability in the biological context. Summarization of evidence on issues involving the measurement of the biological context in behavioral research can be found in a recent chapter by Evans (1999); summarization of evidence on diet and temperament can be found in a chapter by Wachs (in press).

The relative neglect of psychosocial contributions to the study of temperament in part reflects the historical tradition of viewing temperament as a biologically rooted phenomena. in addition, as pointed out by Matheny and Phillips (chap. 6, this volume), the longstanding assumption that temperament is a highly stable phenomena hindered the search for psychosocial contextual variables that might lead to discontinuity in temperament over time or across situations. However, as pointed out by other contributors to this . . .

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