Saturday, June 11, 2011

Temperment vs. Personality

You know how many times I've misused these words? Or have heard others misuse the words?  When I say misuse, I don't entirely mean that we don't understand them, but we may not have understood entirely what we were saying.  But it makes me think of our every day situations - how we react to the different responses and actions of others and what we use to justify those reactions when they become entirely different from our own.  For instance, while out with some friends, one of them gets angry at the waiter because he is taking too long to get their drinks.  While it may not be the response that you would do, what you may say to a friend is "that's just their personality."  For a situation where someone does not like to talk about their feelings and gets frustrated easily when people try to, you may blame it on his temperament.  You may not even realize that you are inherently making a statement that is a nature vs. nurture complex - nature being your temperament (or as the book says, behavior that "is a result of the genetically inherited characteristics" (Deckers, 211). The nurture element refers to personality, or "a consistent way of behaving as a result of the interaction between temperament characteristics and social experience" (Deckers, 211). 

The book also goes on to imply that we are a product of both, which has been a well thought theory ever since Darwin's Nature vs. Nurture complex.  The book also goes on to say that our temperament can be a very strong indicator of our personality in our later years.  Now, many of us have heard of the condition "baby colic" which occurs in some children (usually those who are not breastfead, interestingly enough) and is a condition that occurs in the first 12 months of life in which a child screams, cries, and carries on without any discernible reason.  The link below further explains the phenomena of colic -

This link may be a little harder to watch, it shows a colic baby at 4 weeks old that screams and cries without any reason and cannot be soothed.  In the description of the video the parent explains that this went on day and night for the first months the baby was alive, imagine this for months at a time...

Eventually the baby just cries itself to sleep. But research indicates that Baby Colic is correlated with personality issues in the future that cause irritability.  This link shows how babies with colic develop later in life up to 4 years old (but there are countless more that go even later than that)

As the forum states, colic shows no signs of effect in early life (1 year old). But afterwards, they develop sleeping habits, ad by age 4 have more negative emotions and stressed outburts than others. As we can see, their temperament greatly affected their personality in the future.  Babies clearly have no social experience that can, in any way, shape their behavior, so whatever they do during infancy is innate.  Hence, the colic is a temperament.  However, a child is entirely dependent on the parents to satisfy any needs: When hungry, feed me. When wet, change me. When tired, put me to sleep. When thirsty, give me milk, etc.  So for whatever the reason for the colic, and the lack of ability for the parent to sooth whatever the problem is, the baby is learning to have a distrust and disappointment for dependability on others.  It's sad, but it does show how our innate human temperament shapes our personalities. 


  1. I can't imagine having a baby with colic - it must be so frustrating that no matter what you do, you can't calm your baby. I never knew the link between colic and the affect it has on them later in life and how personality and temperament play a role. My nephew was colicy so I'm interested to see how it shapes his temperament and personality in the future.

  2. Theresa I think this is a great example or how temperament affects personality. I also agree that these two things can get confused sometimes. There is also a fine line between nature and nurture as well. When bad or good temperament is passed down from generation to generation, is it good or bad temperament or is it personality. Because they are so similar it can be hard to tell sometimes. One usually reflects the other, so which had or has more of the influence?