Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

A Cross-Cultural Evaluation of Temperament: Japan, USA, Poland and Russia

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

A Cross-Cultural Evaluation of Temperament: Japan, USA, Poland and Russia

Article excerpt

It would be difficult if not impossible to overstate the importance and advantages of cross-cultural developmental research (Harkness, Moscardino, Ríos Bermúdez, et al., 2006; Harkness, Bloom, Oliva, et al., 2007; Rogoff & Morelli, 1989). The process of child development cannot be separated from the child's immediate social and cultural environment; thus, children in different countries may have different formative experiences, leading to potentially notable differences in developmental processes and outcomes, and limiting the generalizability of results obtained based on work with single cultural groups. Despite these recognized advantages, the vast majority of developmental research has focused on a select group of Western cultures.

The development of temperament in childhood represents an important area of study in the domain of social-emotional functioning, which has recently been approached from a cross-cultural perspective. Temperament has been conceptualized as individual differences in reactivity and self -regulation, which are constitutionally based and influenced over time by heredity, maturation, and experience (Rothbart & Derryberry, 1981). Reactivity refers to arousability of affect, motor activity, and attentional responses (i.e., orienting), assessed by threshold, latency, intensity, time to peak intensity, and recovery time of the reaction. Self-regulation refers to processes such as behavioral inhibition and self-soothing, serving to modulate reactivity (Rothbart & Bates, 1998). In so far as these biologicallybased reactive and regulatory factors are influenced by experience, cultural differences in temperament can be anticipated. These environmental effects associated with culture may play a particularly important role in infancy. Panksepp (2001), for example, argued that the emotional systems development occurring in infancy is particularly open to environment, and influential in shaping later outcomes because of the "valence tagging," a process wherein basic emotional systems imbue environmental events with values, which unfolds during this period. According to Panksepp, infants may "initially assimilate cognitive structures only in highly affective ways," with the cognitive structure over time exerting a regulatory influence upon the emotional systems. Thus, infant emotional systems and their attempts at the processing of the surrounding world not only form the basis for later affective experience, but also provide the foundation for developing self-regulation that relies on cognitive skills, and continues to advance through out childhood and beyond.

Multiple investigators have focused their efforts on the study of temperament development in infancy, and as a result, normative developmental trajectories have been documented for a variety of temperament dimensions during this period. In summary, Activity Level shows a dramatic increase during infancy (see Eaton, 1994, for a review). The expression of pleasure shows a smaller, more gradual increase during the first year of life, with positive emotionality becoming established early in infancy (Rothbart & Ahadi, 1994). A dramatic acceleration during the second half of the first year of life has been demonstrated for Fear. This developmental pattern was supported in Rothbart's (1988) investigation, wherein children were presented with familiar versus unfamiliar, highly stimulating toys, showing increases in fear with age, and more recent findings demonstrating that parent-reported fearfulness grows during the second part of the first year of life (Carranza Carnicero, Pérez López, Salinas, & Martínez Fuentes, 2000). A U-shaped trajectory has reflected the development of anger responses during the first year of life (e.g., Carranza, Pérez, González Salinas, & Martínez Fuentes, 2000; Rothbart, 1981), with changes in distress responses being associated with gains in cognitive abilities. For example, decreases in anger occurring between 2 and 6 months of age have been linked to the development of orienting attention, and greater flexibility in attention shifting (Johnson, Posner, & Rothbart, 1991). …

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