1. Following Rothbart & Bates (1998) I am assuming that differences among individuals in the specific dimensions and domains of temperament are quantitative in nature, with individuals being distributed along a continuum. However, it is important to note that there continues to be controversy on the issue of whether individual differences in temperament are best viewed as qualitative or quantitative in nature. For those espousing a qualitative viewpoint, individuals with different temperament patterns are best conceived as falling into different categorical groupings (Woodward et al., 2000).

2. A critical distinction is between stability (maintenance of rank order on a trait for a population of individuals, traditionally assessed by trait correlations over time) versus continuity (change in the level of the trait traditionally assessed by mean changes in a trait over time) (McCall, 1986). Clearly, the level of temperament traits changes over time (Eaton, 1994; Worobey & Blajda, 1989). However, it is entirely possible for there to be changes in a trait over time (discontinuity), while stability (rank order of individuals) is still maintained. For the present discussion, I will be focusing on stability.

3. The prediction of only modest stability is further reinforced by changes in our knowledge of gene action. While we traditionally think of gene systems as being switched on prenatally and continuing to operate unchanged throughout the life span, this traditional picture clearly is oversimplified. More recent models of gene action have illustrated how different gene systems can turn on or turn off at different points of development (Plomin, DeFries, McClearn, & Rutter, 1997). If gene systems underlying specific dimensions of temperament change across the life span, again we would not necessarily expect a high degree of stability for those dimensions of temperament that are coded by such a gene system.

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Joy Of Modern Parenting Collection

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