How Babies’ and Children’s Temperament Varies Around the World

“Messages, values, parental practices and other social guide rails characterise your cultural group”.

Matt Huston at Psyche: Babies have plenty in common with each other – the crying, the crawling, the sleeping – but their own little personalities are on display too. One infant might spend more time in a grumpy mood than others. Another might be especially fascinated by the bright new world around them, reaching toward whatever catches their eye. My mother informs me that I was a ‘happy and goofy’ baby; perhaps you’ve heard stories about your own infant self, or you’ve witnessed your own children’s emerging traits and quirks.

‘Temperament’ is the word psychologists use to describe these distinctions – it’s ‘a subset of personality that you can observe in infants and children’, says Samuel Putnam, a developmental psychologist at Bowdoin College in Maine, US. Measures of personality in adults are not only about behaviours and feelings, but also about patterns of thinking and ideas; they cover tendencies such as being a ‘deep thinker’, having artistic interests, or handling tasks efficiently. Temperament, in infants and children, is instead judged by characteristics that parents or others can observe, such as activity levels and emotional responses. The varied temperaments of infants continue to develop through toddlerhood and beyond, as children find themselves in new situations and their capacities grow. What emerges early in life serves as a foundation for what comes later.

These developments don’t unfold in quite the same way everywhere, however. By adulthood, average differences in personality are apparent between groups of people in different countries. For example, there are some countries and regions (such as the US, Canada and much of western Europe) where people tend to score more highly on extraversion than others (such as those in Indonesia and much of East Asia). Researchers have also reported average differences between nations on the other ‘Big Five’ personality traits – agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience – such as samples in France and Russia showing relatively high levels of neuroticism, with people in Estonia and Sweden indicating lower levels.

More here.