Does temperament change over time? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does temperament change over time?” and explore the concept of temperament and how it evolves with age to help understand the answer. 

Does temperament change over time?

Yes, temperament can change over time. The following are 3 insights into how temperament can change over time –

  • Rank-order shift.
  • Early infancy to early adolescence.
  • Personality changes.

These 3 insights into how temperament can change over time will be discussed in further detail below after taking a deeper look at what temperament means. 

What is temperament?

Temperament is a psychological trait related to emotional dispositions and reactions, as well as their speed and intensity; the phrase is frequently used to refer to a person’s prevailing mood or mood pattern. 

Galen, a Greek physician from the second century AD, established the concept of temperament from an older physiological idea of four fundamental bodily fluids (humours): blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile.

They were said to generate sanguine (warm, pleasant), phlegmatic (slow-moving, apathetic), melancholy (depressed, sorrowful), and choleric temperaments, depending on their relative prominence in the individual (quick to react, hot-tempered). 

Recent ideas place a greater emphasis on the endocrine glands’ role in emotional response. 

In emotional reactivity, modern psychology places a premium on the activity of the autonomic nervous system, particularly its sympathetic branch: autonomic over-responsiveness is closely associated with neurotic tendencies. 

Individual variations in ease of conditioning (also possibly inherent) have a role in temperament since such responses can be conditioned.

What are these 3 insights into how temperament can change over time?

Rank-order shift.

Temperament is an important part of children’s psychological development, and it is thought to remain rather constant throughout infancy. However, little study has been done on temperament stability from childhood through early adolescence. 

Furthermore, only a few research have looked at the impact of measuring and analytic approaches on the long-term stability of early temperament.

Temperament, or generally persistent individual variances in emotional reactivity and regulation, has long been recognised as an important aspect of children’s psychological development (Rothbart, Ahadi, & Evans, 2000; Zentner & Bates, 2008). 

It’s also a big factor in psychopathology (Klein et al., 2012; Nigg, 2006), academic achievement (Martin, 1994), and peer interactions in kids (Sanson et al., 2004). 

Individual disparities in rank-ordering on variables are largely stable across time, according to a basic premise driving temperament conceptualizations. Temperament, on the other hand, is now regarded as having a significant rank-order shift throughout time.

For a variety of reasons, it’s critical to comprehend the extent and character of this shift in temperament throughout time. 

Until recently, there was much discussion about whether temperament stability was largely controlled by the environment or by genetics, but it is now widely accepted that both factors have a role, and that temperament should have a moderate amount of both stability and change over time (Roberts & DelVecchio, 2000; Roberts & Mroczek, 2008).

Early infancy to early adolescence.

A large sample of mothers and fathers, as well as lab-based observations of early childhood temperament and mother-, father-, and child reports of temperament in early adolescence, was used to look at the stability of temperament across nearly a decade, from early infancy to early adolescence.

Understanding how stable childhood features have crucial consequences for our understanding of normative development of individual differences, as well as essential components of how we regard ourselves and others. 

Few studies have looked at the stability of early childhood temperament into early adolescence and combined lab-based temperament observations with mother and father report in early childhood and mother, father, and child temperament assessments in adolescence.

Zero-order correlations revealed that a range of factors, including the assessment technique and informant at baseline and follow-up, influence connections over time.

After reducing measurement error, latent models reveal that stability estimates rise, and temperament characteristics demonstrated moderate stability from ages 3 to 12. 

Despite the fact that this is a phase of more flexibility and change than most other developmental periods (Posner & Rothbart, 2007; Rothbart & Bates, 2006), temperament remains rather stable across the 9–10 year span from early infancy to early adolescence.

​Personality changes.

Temperament, being an integral component of personality, is highly influenced by the same. Temperament can change over time based on any kind of changes in personality over the same period of time. Thus let’s take a look at if and how personality is capable of change over time. 

Personality traits are broad categories of individual differences that have to do with how we interact with others. They help us think, behave, and feel consistently in a variety of situations and across time.

Adult personality features are thought to be derived from early childhood temperament differences, which are partially genetically determined and impact exposure to social events. In total, there are five personality dimensions.

The five factors are: “extraversion or positive emotionality (incorporating traits such as sociability, energy, shyness and dominance/subordination); neuroticism or negative emotionality (including lower‐order traits such as proneness to anxiety, irritability, sadness, insecurity and guilt); conscientiousness (factors such as reliability, carefulness, persistence and self‐control); agreeableness (cooperativeness, consideration, generosity, kindness and politeness); and openness to experience (imaginativeness, insight and aesthetic sensitivity)”. 

Individuals differ in all of these features, therefore each person is thought to have a distinct collection of attributes. Personality traits have a moderately consistent impact on the quality of social and familial relationships, marital status and contentment, professional choices, political attitudes, and criminality.

It’s possible that your personality will change over time. It’s normal to have mood fluctuations now and again. On the other side, unusual personality changes might be a sign of a health or mental illness.

A personality shift can manifest itself in a number of ways –

A personality shift is indicated by behaviour that differs from how you would normally behave in the same situation.

A person’s mood, aggression, or euphoria are abnormally moody, aggressive, or euphoric in comparison to their regular behaviour in comparable conditions, indicating a personality shift.

Examples of personality change –

  • Being unconcerned in conditions that would typically induce anxiety or worry.
  • Being glad when hearing bad news.

While a gradual shift in personality isn’t uncommon, an accident or sickness might create an abrupt transformation.

A generally joyful individual might become depressed as a result of grief, unpleasant news, or disappointment. After hearing the sad news, a person’s mood might be affected for weeks or months.

Some people have had bizarre or aberrant behaviour for years, which might be caused by disease or injury. After being exposed to a stressful scenario or seeing an unpleasant incident, a person’s demeanour may shift.

These behavioural changes may be caused by a mental health condition, such as –

Anxiety.

When a person feels apprehensive or unpleasant about a situation, they are said to be anxious. It’s natural to feel anxious from time to time, but when it happens without warning, it might be an indication of generalised anxiety disorder.

Panic attacks.

Panic episodes are intense bouts of dread. Fear might appear to be illogical at times. A person suffering a panic attack while seeing an elevator or speaking in public is an example of such a circumstance.

Post-traumatic stress disorder.

This mental health disease, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is characterised by acute terror, flashbacks, and, in some cases, hallucinations. Traumatic memories, such as a terrorist attack or a vehicle accident, might cause PTSD.

Bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is characterised by mood swings that are intense. Mood swings may range from exhilaration to severe sadness, and they might modify how a person reacts to specific encounters or events, depending on their mood.

Schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia makes it difficult to think clearly, interpret circumstances efficiently, behave appropriately in social situations, and discern what is genuine from what isn’t.

Strange or odd behaviour might be caused by medical problems that cause hormone levels to fluctuate. These conditions include –

  • menopause
  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • andropause (male menopause)
  • hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism (an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, respectively)

Medical emergencies that can cause strange or unusual behaviour include –

  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • dehydration
  • malnutrition

While personality qualities are usually stable over time, they may and do change during the course of a person’s life. Furthermore, most of these changes are for the better. 

Many studies, including some of my own, suggest that as people become older, they grow more pleasant, responsible, and emotionally robust. However, rather than days or weeks, these changes likely to occur across years or decades. 

Changes in personality that occur suddenly and dramatically are uncommon. Personality traits have a role in shaping people’s lives because of their impact on behaviour and consistency through time. 

The Big Five personality traits, when measured with scientifically constructed and validated personality tests, predict a long list of important life outcomes, including academic and work performance, relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners, life satisfaction and emotional well-being, physical health and longevity, and many others. 

In fact, none of these outcomes is solely dictated by a person’s personality; they are all impacted by the circumstances of their lives. 

However, personality traits definitely have an impact on people’s lives and can help explain why two persons in comparable situations typically have different results.

The relevance of social roles is highlighted in research by Brent Roberts, Joshua Jackson, Wiebke Bleidorn, and others. 

When we invest in a position that requires specific behaviours, such as a job that requires us to be hardworking and responsible, such behaviours tend to get incorporated into our personality over time.

According to 2015 research by Nathan Hudson and Chris Fraley, some people may be able to change their personalities on purpose via prolonged personal effort and precise goal-setting. 

Positive personality changes appear to increase when people are living important and rewarding lives, according to research. Thus, it can be said that personality plays an important role in bringing about changes in various aspects of temperament over time. 

Conclusion – 

This blog post attempted to answer the question, “Does temperament change over time?” and reviewed the concept of temperament and how it evolves with age to help determine if temperament can change over time. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Whitcomb, I. Does your personality change as you get older? (2020, August 23);. Retrieved from  https://www.livescience.com/personality-age-change.html#:~:text=Personality%20tends%20to%20get%20%22better,these%20changes%20are%20often%20pronounced.

Kopala-Sibley, Daniel C et al. “The stability of temperament from early childhood to early adolescence: A multi-method, multi-informant examination.” European journal of personality vol. 32,2 (2018): 128-145. doi:10.1002/per.2151. Retrieved from  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6407883/

Soto, C. Personality Can Change Over A Lifetime, And Usually For The Better. (2016, June 30). Retrieved from  https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/06/30/484053435/personality-can-change-over-a-lifetime-and-usually-for-the-better

Suttie, J. Can Your Personality Change Over Your Lifetime? (2018, October 15). Retrieved from  https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_your_personality_change_over_your_lifetime

Gorvett, Z. How your personality changes as you age. (2020, March 16). Retrieved from  https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200313-how-your-personality-changes-as-you-age

Temperament and Personality in Adulthood. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-lifespandevelopment/chapter/temperament-and-personality-in-adulthood/

Kersting, K. Personality changes for the better with age. American Psychological Association. (2003, July/August ). Retrieved from  https://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug03/personality

Peterson, R. Can you change a child’s temperament? (2019, January 9). Retrieved from  https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/allthemoms/2019/01/09/can-you-change-childs-temperament/2291467002/

Personality change. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2022, March 10). Retrieved from  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_changes

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