Emotional and Personality Development in Adolescence Research Paper

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What is personality? How is temperament related to personality? Where does emotion fit in? What is the significance of emotion, personality, and temperament for understanding behavior and emotional well-being in adolescence? How does culture influence the expression of emotion and personality? These are critical and challenging questions that underlie the study of individual differences in emotional and personality development. Emotional and personality development are complicated, interrelated processes that occur across the life span. The story of emotion and personality in adolescence is essentially a study in identifying indicators and predictors of adolescents’ emotional well-being and distress, ascertaining core personality traits seen in adolescence, documenting the evolution of personality characteristics across time, and investigating the links among emotion, emotional well-being and distress, personality, and temperament.

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There is a vast array of theory and research on emotion and personality across the life span.This research paper focuseson recent research into the emotional well-being and distress of adolescents, as well as personality and temperament development in adolescence. The examination of emotion and personality in adolescence is interesting for at least two reasons. First, it is in the period of adolescence that we may begin to observe not only the crystallization of emotional and personality styles, but also how emotion and personality will shape the course of individuals’ lives. Perhaps for the first time, interested observers such as parents can be more confident in predicting what kind of adult the individual is likely to become. Continuities in emotional well-being and personality across time are the source for these predictions about future behavior, but to be sure, discontinuities can make those predictions wrong. Second, the field of research on adolescent development that has burgeoned in the last few decades has demonstrated not onlythattherearesignificantbiological,cognitive,social,and behavioral changes that occur during adolescence, but also that these changes are inextricably linked with one another. It is crucial to understand the role of emotion and personality in producing and affecting these changes.

Given the large amount of research in each of the areas of emotion, personality, and temperament, it is not possible within the confines of this research paper to conduct a comprehensive review of relevant studies. Several excellent books and reviews suit this purpose (e.g., Caspi, 1998; Kagan, 1998; Larson & Richards, 1994; Rothbart & Bates, 1998; Sanson & Rothbart, 1995; Shiner, 1998; van Lieshout, 2000). In this research paper we aim to identify the major issues seen in research on emotional and personality development pertaining specifically to adolescence, to provide examples of illustrative research in these domains, and to explore how future research can increase our understanding of adolescent emotion and personality. In the first section of this research paper we present research on some important issues in emotional development during adolescence. In the second section we discuss some of the key issues related to personality and temperament in adolescence. In the third and final section we identify four emerging themes in research on emotion and personality that will shape the direction of research for some time to come.

Emotional Development

Guided by G. Stanley Hall’s storm and stress hypothesis (the view that adolescence is filled with hormone-induced emotional turmoil), one focus of research on emotions in adolescence has been to examine variability in emotional or mood states (Brooks-Gunn, Graber, & Paikoff, 1994). Larson and Lampman-Petraitis (1989), for example, charted hour-tohour changes in mood over a week in a sample of preadolescent and adolescent children. It is interesting to note that there was little evidence of variability in the mood states of adolescents compared to preadolescents. The average adolescent, however, was more likely than the average preadolescent to report more mildly negative mood states and fewer extremely positive mood states. Although overall mood may take on a slightly different character in adolescence, rapid mood swings were not evidenced in this research. Another focus of research has examined direct links between hormonal levels in adolescence and emotions such as aggression and depression (Susman, 1997). Some consistent associations have been found between specific hormones and feelings of aggression (particularly among boys) and depression (Brooks-Gunn et al., 1994; Buchanan, Eccles, & Becker, 1992), but only small proportions of variance in emotion (up to 6%) are attributable to hormones (Susman, 1997). More complicated models of hormone-emotion relationships have been proposed, based on research indicating that hormones interact with personality and contextual characteristics to affect emotional states and behavior (Richards & Larson, 1993). These models, which require the use of longitudinal designs, will lead to a better understanding of how hormones are linked to adolescents’ emotions indirectly through their impact on the outward physical changes of puberty, the adolescents’responses to these changes and their implications, and others’reactions to the changing adolescent (Brooks-Gunn et al., 1994; Susman, 1997).

Often implicit in the research on the link between hormones and emotion is the assumption that emotions may be something to be feared, that they are linked directly to negative and irrational behavior. Increasingly, though, the conceptualization of emotions in contemporary research has moved away from viewing emotions as sources of negative and irrational behavior toward a view of emotions as adaptive and capable of organizing behavior in ways that can enhance as well as disrupt functioning (Cole, Michel, & Teti, 1994; Thompson, 1994). A dominant paradigm for studying emotions and emotion-related phenomena is emotion regulation.

Emotion regulation may be broadly defined as the way in which a person uses emotional experiences to provide for adaptive functioning (Thompson, 1994). The construct of emotion regulation has been used to refer to both outcome and process. In terms of outcome, some researchers define emotion regulation as the extent to which an individual shows emotional control versus emotional reactivity (Maedgen & Carlson, 2000). In this view, important components of emotion regulation include emotional lability, maladaptive emotional displays, and negative mood states. Others focus more on process variables such as the coping strategies that individuals employ to modify emotional reactions (Contreras, Kerns, Weimer, Gentzler, & Tomich, 2000; Rossman, 1992; Underwood, 1997). Emotion regulation in this sense refers to how the individual deals with each experience of emotion (Campos, Mumme, Kermoian, & Campos, 1994; Gross & Muñoz, 1995). This view of emotion regulation focuses not only on the modulation of distress but also on attempts to stimulate positive emotions or improve emotional arousal to achieve important interpersonal goals (Calkins, 1994; Thompson, 1994).

A variety of skills are necessary for effective emotion regulation, including flexibility and responsiveness to changing situational demands (Cole et al., 1994; Thompson, 1994). Other skills include an awareness of one’s emotional state, the capacity to detect emotions in other people, knowledge of cultural display rules for emotions, and the ability to empathize with others’ emotional states (Saarni, 1990; cited in Underwood, 1997). These skills are initially primarily externally supported, such as when a parent helps a child label and talk about their emotions, selectively reinforces adaptive emotional displays, and models effective emotion regulation. With development, socialization influences on emotion regulation give way to more internally mediated emotion regulation processes (Calkins, 1994; Thompson, 1994). By adolescence, individuals are better able to structure their own environment as a way of regulating their emotions, and they are capable of cognitively sophisticated emotion regulation strategies such as reframing and taking another’s point of view (Gross & Muñoz, 1995).

This broader view of emotion regulation—that is, as the behavioral strategies one uses to modify, intensify, diminish, or transform emotional reactions—is an integral part of the functionalist perspective on emotion (Campos et al., 1994; Thompson, 1994). The functionalist perspective highlights several characteristics of emotion regulation. For instance, optimal emotion regulation is best conceptualized as context dependent, rather than as a stable feature of individual functioning (Thompson, 1994). Different contexts present diverse emotional challenges, and optimal emotion regulation varies depending on the goals of the individual in specific situations (Thompson, 1994). Accordingly, individuals have different goals depending on the interpersonal context (friend vs. stranger vs. authority figure), and the most adaptive way of dealing with emotions such as anger in each of these situations may differ (Underwood, 1997). Similarly, individuals may show effective emotion regulation in one context (e.g., with peers)butnotinanother(e.g.,withsiblings;Thompson,1994; Whitesell & Harter, 1996). A related emphasis in the functionalist perspective is that emotion regulation is an interpersonal phenomenon more than an intrapsychic phenomenon (Campos et al., 1994). For instance, core emotions such as happiness, guilt, pride, and shame all reflect core relationship themes (Campos et al., 1994). In addition, beliefs about the availability of support and the likely response of others can facilitate or hamper effective emotion regulation (Thompson, 1994). In turn, emotion regulation skills can facilitate or hamper the achievement of important interpersonal developmental tasks, such as forming secure relationships with others (Cole et al., 1994).

Most research on emotion regulation has focused on infants (e.g., Field, 1994) and young children (e.g., Shields & Cicchetti, 1997; Underwood, 1997). Less attention has been directed at how emotion regulation operates in adolescence. Despite this lack of formal theorizing about emotion regulation in adolescence, the emotion regulation framework can be useful for conceptualizing and integrating a variety of constructs that have been the subject of much empirical attention in the literature on adolescence. For instance, indicators of adolescents’ psychological well-being (e.g., selfesteem, positive mood) can be interpreted from an emotion regulation perspective as illustrative of the successful regulation of emotions, or adaptive emotional functioning. Likewise, indicators of psychological distress (e.g., depression) can be viewed as capturing emotion dysregulation. In this section we examine research that bears on adaptive emotional regulation, followed by research important to understanding emotion dysregulation.

Indicators of Adaptive Emotion Regulation

How do we know when adolescents are doing well? By what measure can we achieve some level of confidence that teens are successfully negotiating their way around their world, mastering important developmental tasks, and learning to regulate their emotions in ways that will ensure their eventual success in adulthood? Throughout the empirical literature on adolescence, there are a host of constructs and indicators of emotional well-being, including, but not limited to, a high self-esteem (Haney & Durlak, 1998; Zimmerman, Copeland, Shope, & Dielman, 1997), a positive self-concept and stable sense of identity (Harter, 1990; Nurmi, 1997), a high level of ego development (Allen, Hauser, Bell, & O’Connor, 1994; Hauser & Safyer, 1994), social competence (Bustra, Bosma, & Jackson, 1994; Gullotta, Adams, & Montemayor, 1990), a positive mood or emotional tone (Larson & Richards, 1994; Petersen et al., 1993), school engagement and competence (Sandler, Ayers, Suter, Schultz, & Twohey, in press; Wigfield & Eccles, 1994), and feelings of attachment to parents and friends (Allen, Moore, Kuperminc, & Bell, 1998; Greenberger & McLaughlin, 1998; Paterson, Pryor, & Field, 1995). Although each of these indicators alone is the subject of a large body of research, studies have found that these measures of emotional well-being are typically positively correlated with one another (e.g., DuBois, Bull, Sherman, & Roberts, 1998; Paterson et al., 1995; Petersen et al., 1993). A review of each of these indicators is beyond the scope of this research paper. However, many of these constructs have been generally incorporated into larger integrative models that represent the adolescent’s overall level of adaptation. From the perspective of emotion regulation, models of the self-system and psychosocial maturity are particularly appropriate to consider.

The Self-System

In decades of research, many aspects of self have been defined and measured. One of the most common is self-esteem, which is typically defined as an affective evaluation of the self, involving feelings of self-worth (DuBois & Hirsch, 2000). A long history of research shows that high levels of global selfesteem are linked with positive adjustment in adolescents, including higher academic achievement and lower levels of internalizing and externalizing problems (DuBois et al., 1998; Haney & Durlak, 1998; Zimmerman et al., 1997). Selfconcept is typically seen as a cognitive representation of the self, or perceptions of one’s personal and interpersonal characteristics (Haney & Durlak, 1998). Although there is no single definition or understanding of self-concept, self-concept is increasingly seen to be multidimensional in nature, incorporating elements of self-evaluation in specific domains, such as the school, peer, and athletic contexts (Harter, 1990; Harter, Bresnick, Bouchey, & Whitesell, 1997).

Self-system is a term recently used to describe in a broad sense the many elements of adolescents’ representations of self, including self-esteem, perceived self-efficacy, possible selves, standards for self, values, and motivations (DuBois & Hirsch, 2000; Harter et al., 1997). There is no question that adolescents’ positive self-attributions and closer connections between their multiple actual and ideal selves are linked with positive developmental outcomes (DuBois & Hirsch, 2000; Harter et al., 1997). With respect to identity development, the establishment of a stable sense of identity (the integration of a coherent sense of self that persists over time) is a key developmental task of adolescence (Erikson, 1968; Harter, 1990). Identity formation requires not only the consolidation of self-attributes into an organized system but also the integration of self with societal roles (Harter, 1990).

Haviland, Davidson, Ruetsch, Gebelt, and Lancelot (1994) have argued that emotion is a central part of identity structures, with adolescents’self-descriptions varying in the extent to which positive and negative emotions are represented. Thus, constructs such as self-esteem, self-concept, and identity fall under the general rubric of the self-system and speak to the issue of successful emotional regulation.

Psychosocial Maturity

Indicators of emotional well-being are also a key feature of psychosocial maturity, as defined by Greenberger and colleagues (Greenberger, Josselson, Knerr, & Knerr, 1975; Greenberger & Sørenson, 1974). This model encompasses three major domains of development, each consisting of multiple dimensions, which must be fostered if the child is to become a productive adult. The first domain is autonomy, or the individual’s ability to function independently. The achievement of autonomy is characterized by self-reliance (the capacity to take initiative and to have a sense of control over one’s life and activities), identity (a coherent selfconcept,completewithlifegoalsandinternalizedvalues),and work orientation (standards for competence and taking pleasure in work). The second domain is interpersonal adequacy, or the individual’s ability to communicate and interact well with others. This requires effective communication skills, such as empathy and the ability to understand and receive messages, a sense of trust in others, and knowledge of roleappropriate behavior.The third domain of psychosocial maturity is social responsibility, or the individual’s capacity to contribute to the well-being of society. This involves a sense of social commitment to the good of the community, an openness to social and political change to achieve higher order goals, and a tolerance and acceptance of individual and cultural differences (Greenberger & Sørenson, 1974). It is easy to observe that specific indicators of emotional well-being (e.g., social competence, attachment to parents and peers, school engagement, strong ego development, and a coherent identity) overlap with elements in this model of psychosocial maturity.

Aside from the fact that various indicators of emotional well-being are contained within larger models of the self and of psychosocial maturity, how can the diverse array of constructs, such as school engagement, self-esteem, identity, positive mood, and attachment to parents and peers, be indicators of “emotional” well-being? What do they have in common? According to Cole et al. (1994), children have a number of emotion-based developmental tasks that they must accomplish, including tolerance for frustration, establishing and enjoying friendships, defending the self, and acquiring interest in learning. In adolescence, major developmental tasks are to search for and establish an identity, pursue and succeed in intimate friendships, accept responsibility for oneself, and prepare for an education and career (Arnett, 2000). Cole et al. argued that the accomplishment of tasks such as these involves the ability to regulate emotions. Emotional regulation, therefore, is a tie that links together and perhaps underlies constructs such as self-esteem, mood, school engagement, identity, social competence, and feelings about parents and peers.

The importance of emotion regulation to the basic task of maturing and becoming an adult is recognizable in adolescents’ descriptions of what it means to be “grown up.” In a qualitative study (Tilton-Weaver, Vitunski, & Galambos, 2001) examining adolescents’ implicit theories of maturity, sixth- and ninth-grade adolescents were told, “Please think of someone your age who seems more ‘grown up’ than most other kids (do not name him or her).What are some words that describe the ways in which this person seems grown up? ”Half of the adolescents described what appeared to be genuinely mature adolescents. Incorporated into these adolescents’ rich descriptions of genuine maturity were behaviors indicative of emotional regulation: “Doesn’t let anger get in the way of good judgment,” “if someone wants to fight him, he just walks away,” “they are very calm, are helpful, do not get agitated easily,” “can control and explain his feelings,” and “he talks about feelings instead of hiding them.” Not only was control of one’s own emotions important in their descriptions of genuinely mature adolescents, but so was the ability to deal with others’ strong emotions, as in this description of a peacemaker: “she is very calm when people are fighting, she tries to break it up or get them back together.” Tolerance is another feeling that came across in these adolescents’ descriptions: “Respects others’feelings, opinions, decisions, character” and “the person doesn’t judge people by what they look like . . . which I think is good.” Emotion regulation may not be the only hallmark of psychosocial maturity, but it is an important one.

Indicators of Emotion Dysregulation

The construct of emotion regulation not only unites the literature on emotional well-being just reviewed, but it also is central to the study of emotional distress. Emotion-related symptoms are a defining feature of most categories of psychopathology, and the development of emotion regulation is an implied goal of most psychological treatments (Cole et al., 1994). Emotion dysregulation refers to strategies that individuals use to cope with emotions that are maladaptive, such as restricted or inflexible emotional responding (Cole et al., 1994). Examples of emotion dysregulation include not having access to a full range of emotions, an inability to modulate the intensity or duration of emotions, not conforming to cultural display rules for emotions, an inability to integrate mixed emotions, and an inability to think and talk about emotions (Cole et al., 1994).

Emotion dysregulation is not the same as an absence of regulation; dysregulated emotions such as anger or withdrawal serve some adaptive purpose in the short term even though they may interfere with optimal development in the long term (Cole et al., 1994). However, dysregulated emotional styles are considered a vulnerability because maladaptive short-term strategies may become characteristic coping styles and develop into internalizing or externalizing disorders over time (Calkins, 1994; Cole et al., 1994).

Much research into adolescent emotional development has focused implicitly on emotion dysregulation by examining predictors and consequences of internalizing and externalizing disorders. Internalizing problems generally refer to subjective emotions such as depressive feelings and anxiety, whereas externalizing problems refer to more objectively disruptive behaviors such as overt aggressive and antisocial conduct. Although there is a high degree of comorbidity between the two and difficulties such as peer problems and low school motivation may be excluded from the internalizing-externalizing dichotomy (Wångby, Bergman, & Magnusson, 1999), the distinction is still a useful heuristic device for considering maladaptive adjustment patterns in adolescence. We focus our review on the experience of internalizing problems in general and in major depressive disorder (MDD) in particular. An emotion regulation perspective provides a framework for integrating the diverse theoretical orientations related to the experience of depression (see Gross & Muñoz, 1995, for a review).

The Emergence of Internalizing Disorders During Adolescence

Adolescence has traditionally been viewed as a time of increased negative emotions and emotional lability (Arnett, 1999). Reviews of adolescent depression indicate that adolescents report depressed mood at a higher rate than do preadolescents or adults (Petersen et al., 1993). Longitudinal studies of emotion development consistently find that negative affect increases from preadolescence to adolescence (Buchanan et al., 1992) and that depressed mood increases in early adolescence and decreases around late adolescence (Chen, Mechanic, & Hansell, 1998).

Epidemiological studies of the incidence of formal psychiatric disorders also point to adolescence as a time of increased emotional distress relative to later points in the life span. For instance, in the U.S. National Comorbidity Study, the 12month prevalence of psychiatric disorders was highest in the youngest cohort (ages 15–24 years; Kessler et al., 1994). Similarly, Canada’s National Population Health Survey found that major depressive episodes were highest in women ages 12 to 24 compared to males and older women (Beaudet, 1999).

Generally, the point prevalence of psychiatric disturbance in adolescence is about 1 in 4 or 5 (Casper, Belanoff, & Offer, 1996; Offer, Ostrov, Howard, & Atkinson, 1992). Newman et al. (1996) interviewed almost 1,000 adolescents five times over a 10-year period in a nonselected cohort in New Zealand. They found that internalizing disorders were among the most prevalent diagnoses. For instance, at age 21, 16.8% of the sample was diagnosed with MDD. Significantly, they found a sharp increase in depressive disorders during mid- to late adolescence (ages 15 to 18), which suggests that this may be a critical time for studying vulnerability to depression (Hankin et al., 1998).

Similar increases in the rate of depression during adolescence were found in the Oregon Adolescent Depression Project, a longitudinal study of over 1,700 adolescents (Lewinsohn, Rohde, & Seeley, 1998). In this study approximately 28% of adolescents had experienced an episode of MDD by age 19, with a mean age of onset of 14.9 years. Almost half (43%) of adolescents with MDD had a comorbid diagnosis, and in 80% of the cases the MDD was secondary to the comorbid condition. An important finding was that subthreshold levels of depressive symptoms were associated with almost as much psychosocial impairment as clinical levels of depression.

Gender Differences in Internalizing Disorders

Studies of both nonclinical levels of depressed and anxious mood, as well as studies of clinical levels of depression, all report higher rates of distress for females compared with males in adolescence (Chen et al., 1998; Leadbeater, Kuperminc, Blatt, & Hertzog, 1999; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1994). Prospective longitudinal studies indicate that internalizing symptoms remain high or increase for females, whereas they remain at relatively lower levels for males across adolescence (Leadbeater et al., 1999; Scaramella, Conger, & Simons, 1999). Gender differences in clinical levels of depression follow similar patterns. Gender differences in MDD are nonexistent in preadolescence, first emerge in early adolescence (ages 12–14), and increase dramatically in middle to late adolescence (ages 15–18; Hankin et al., 1998; Lewinsohn et al., 1998). By midadolescence the prevalence of MDD among females is more than double that of males; by age 18 approximately 11% of males compared with 24% of females are diagnosed with depression (Hankin et al., 1998; Lewinsohn et al., 1998).

Several explanations for these gender differences have been proposed. According to Nolen-Hoeksema (1994), gender differences in the emotion regulation strategies that males and females use to cope with distress partially account for differential rates of depression. In particular, she argued that females tend to employ passive, ruminative coping styles that place them at greater risk for depression compared with the more active and distracting coping styles of males. Other factors that may be related to gender differences in depression are adolescents’ self-representations. For instance, females report lower levels of self-competence than males, and these differences partially account for differences in symptoms of depression and anxiety (Ohannessian, Lerner, Lerner, & von Eye, 1999). In addition, females show more preoccupation with relationships, threats of abandonment, and loss of nurturing compared with males, and these interpersonal vulnerabilities are associated with increased internalizing symptoms (Leadbeater et al., 1999). In general, the quality of relationships with parents and peers shows a stronger relationship to internalizing symptoms in females than males (Leadbeater et al., 1999), and females may feel more pressure to conform to the expectations of parents and peers (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1994). Finally, gender differences in the experience of depression may be related to the finding that females experience greater stress during adolescence (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1994). For instance, the changes in body shape and size that females experience during puberty are generally unwelcome, whereas the pubertal changes to male body shape and size are generally valued. In addition, females experience dramatically greater rates of sexual abuse in early adolescence compared with males, which is associated with elevated rates of depression.

Predictors and Correlates of Internalizing Disorders

Depressed mood has been associated with poor school motivation and performance, marital discord and family conflict, the experience of stressful life events, low popularity, and, for females, both early- and late-onset puberty (Leadbeater et al., 1999; Lewinsohn et al., 1998; Petersen et al., 1993; Roeser, Eccles, & Sameroff, 1998). Many studies highlight the importance of the interpersonal context of adolescent depressive disorders. For instance, the quality of attachment between parents and adolescents plays a role in internalizing adjustment problems. Adolescents with secure attachments experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, whereas adolescents with preoccupied, anxious, or avoidant attachment relationships experience relatively more psychological distress (Allen et al., 1998; Cooper, Shaver, & Collins, 1998; Marton & Maharaj, 1993; Noom, Dekovic, & Meeus, 1999). Furthermore, interactions in families with a depressed adolescent are observed to be less cohesive and supportive compared with families with well-adjusted adolescents (Sheeber & Sorensen, 1998). In addition, inept and inadequate parenting, characterized by less warmth and acceptance, more hostility, greater psychological control, and less consistent discipline, is associated with increased risk for internalizing symptoms and clinical depression across adolescence (Conger, Conger, & Scaramella, 1997; Ge, Conger, Lorenz, & Simons, 1994; Marton & Maharaj, 1993; Scaramella et al., 1999). For males, greater psychological control by siblings is also associated with increases in internalizing symptoms over time (K. Conger et al., 1997).

These disruptions in parenting and parent-adolescent relationships may affect depressive symptoms through their effects on adolescents’self-representations. For instance, lower maternal acceptance and greater psychological control are associated with lower levels of self-worth, which in turn are associated with elevated levels of depression (Garber, Robinson, & Valentiner, 1997). Similarly, disrupted parentadolescentrelationships(i.e.,separation-individuationconflicts, parental rejection, or excessive dependency) are associated with greater self-critical and interpersonal vulnerabilities, which in turn are associated with increased depressed mood (Frank, Poorman, Van Egeren, & Field, 1997). Other intrapsychic variables, such as lower levels of attitudinal and emotional autonomy (Noom et al., 1999) and greater self-awareness (Chen et al., 1998), are also associated with increased depressed mood.

Personality Development

Much of what we know about personality development is actually based on research with either young children or adults. These have been largely disconnected lines of inquiry with a long history of research on young children devoted to studying temperament and a great deal of research on adults examining personality. These separate lines of inquiry are now being joined as researchers attempt to understand the overlap and the connections between temperament in childhood and personality in adulthood (Sanson & Rothbart, 1995). As the transition period between childhood and adulthood, adolescence is perhaps an ideal time for considering personality and temperament. In research on adolescent personality and temperament, several key issues have been identified. These issues include (a) the core structure of personality, (b) the origins of personality, (c) continuity in personality across the life span, and (d) the fit between temperament/personality dimensions and the social context. These issues as they pertain to research on adolescence are elaborated in this section.

The Structure of Personality

The search for core features of personality has a long history. In personality research across the twentieth century, a myriad of personality traits has been identified, measured, examined, and linked to each other as well as to the individual’s psychosocial adjustment. Given the large array of possible personality constructs, the search for a taxonomy, or descriptive model, of core personality traits has occupied the efforts of many researchers, particularly those examining personality in adults (John, 1990). One taxonomy, the Big Five, is a comprehensive model consisting of five broad personality traits or factors under which most if not all other descriptors of personality are subsumed (Goldberg, 1993). This model is based largely on clusters of adjectives that people use to describe themselves. The five factors and examples of adjectives attached to these factors are Extroversion (assertive, enthusiastic, outgoing), Agreeableness (generous, kind, sympathetic), Conscientiousness (organized, planful, responsible), Neuroticism (anxious, self-pitying), and Openness/Intellect (curious, imaginative, wide interests; Caspi, 1998; Goldberg, 1993; John, 1990). Growing support for the Big Five as a meaningful framework for understanding personality dispositions has emerged over the years. This support is based on accumulating empirical evidence that the five-factor structure is robust across many studies and cultures and that it can be used to predict behaviors such as job performance (Goldberg, 1993; McCrae et al., 1999). Nevertheless, there are other models of personality structure, some with two or three factors and some with many more (Church, 1994; Eysenck, 1992; Goldberg, 1993).

Given that most research on the Big Five has been conducted on samples of adults, an important question has been whether these five factors describe the personality structures of children and adolescents. Studies examining this issue in American and Dutch samples have appeared in the last decade, with a five-factor model finding support in samples of individuals ranging in age from early childhood through adolescence, including girls and boys (Digman, 1989; Graziano & Ward, 1992; Havill, Allen, Halverson, & Kohnstamm, 1994; Kohnstamm, Halverson, Havill, & Mervielde, 1996; van Lieshout & Haselager, 1994). One study of 12- to 13-year-old African American and Caucasian boys, rated by their mothers on a set of personality characteristics, found evidence that the Big Five replicated in this ethnically diverse sample (John, Caspi, Robins, Moffitt, & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1994). The results were suggestive also of two additional dimensions of personality at this age: irritability (whines, feelings are easily hurt, has tantrums) and positive activity (energetic, physically active). This research also found that the five factors were linked differentially with indicators of adolescents’ emotional well-being. For example, adolescent boys with externalizing problems were less agreeable, less conscientious, and more extroverted than were those not showing externalizing behavior. Boys with internalizing disorders were high on neuroticism and low on conscientiousness. Poorer school performance was seen among boys who scored lower on conscientiousness and lower on openness (e.g., curiosity).

There are several advantages to identifying a comprehensive model of personality. If researchers agree on and measure the same set of core dimensions of personality in their research, the results of their studies are more directly comparable. Essentially, acceptance of a model such as the Big Five ensures that researchers are speaking the same language. A body of research based on a similarly shared understanding of constructs can lead to clearer and more integrated knowledge of the origins, course of development, and implications of personality (John, 1990). Without a common set of constructs that can be measured across the life span, it is more difficult to draw conclusions about how personality develops from infancy through adulthood—a key question in developmental psychology. The field of research on adolescence generally has not been driven by such a model. Rather, there is wide diversity in the personality constructs that have been measured in research on adolescence. Typically, selected personality traits such as selfrestraint, aggression, and sensation seeking have been measured, often in isolation from other personality characteristics (Shiner, 1998). These selected characteristics are then related to individual differences in adolescent behaviors such as risk taking, early childbearing, and delinquency (e.g., Black, Ricardo, & Stanton, 1997; Feldman & Weinberger, 1994; Underwood, Kupersmidt, & Coie, 1996). The Big Five is a promising model that could be used by researchers of adolescent development as a way to understand links between adolescents’ personalities and their behaviors and emotional well-being.

The Origins of Personality in Temperament

Whereas the study of personality has been located largely in the empirical literature on adults, the study of temperament has been confined mostly to infants and children (for exceptions, see Tubman & Windle, 1995; Wills, DuHamel, & Vaccaro, 1995; Windle, 1992). Only recently has research on personality and temperament begun to be integrated (Sanson & Rothbart, 1995). Although researchers concur neither on a single definition of temperament nor on a core set of temperamental dimensions, it is generally assumed that a child’s temperament is composed of multiple behavioral attributes present at birth (Kagan, 1998). Moreover, there is purported evidence from twin and adoption studies of a substantial genetic influence on temperamental and personality attributes in childhood and adolescence, although there are nonshared environmental influences as well (Braungart, Plomin, DeFries, & Fulker, 1992; Caspi, 1998; Rowe, Almeida, & Jacobson, 1999; Saudino, McGuire, Reiss, Hetherington, & Plomin, 1995). Many authors believe that temperament forms the substrate of personality. Specifically, through the influence of the child’s increasing capacities and interactions with the environment, temperament evolves or becomes elaborated across childhood into a set of differentiated personality traits (Caspi, 1998; Goldsmith et al., 1987; Sanson & Rothbart, 1995; Shiner, 1998).

The modern study of temperament began with the classic work of Thomas and Chess (1977; see also Chess & Thomas, 1999), who followed a group of infants into adulthood. Based on observations of the behavioral styles of these infants, Thomas and Chess identified nine dimensions of temperament along which infants varied. Among these dimensions were activity level, adaptability, intensity of reaction, quality of mood, rhythmicity, and approach. Thomas and Chess also classified children as having “difficult” or “easy” temperaments on the basis of their patterns on a select set of temperamental dimensions. Their pioneering work recognized that early individual differences in temperament were an influential source of individual differences in parent-child relations and in later emotional well-being.

Other models of temperament followed, most of which identified several core dimensions of temperament (Buss & Plomin, 1984; Goldsmith & Campos, 1986; Rothbart & Derryberry, 1981). For instance, Buss and Plomin’s (1984) EAS model identified Emotionality (primarily negative emotions), Activity, and Sociability as basic dimensions of temperament. Rothbart and Derryberry (1981) defined temperament as individual differences in two broad dimensions: reactivity to internal and external stimulation (or the arousability of one’s behavioral, emotional, and biological responses) and self-regulation (or processes such as attention, approach, withdrawal, and self-soothing that modulate reactivity). Models of temperament have undergone modifications and development as research has accumulated (Buss & Plomin, 1984; Windle & Lerner, 1986). Rothbart and colleagues have reported that across a number of studies from early childhood to adulthood, three broad factors of temperament emerge (Ahadi & Rothbart, 1994; Capaldi & Rothbart, 1992; Sanson & Rothbart, 1995). The first, labeled Positive Emotionality, Surgency, or Sociability, is captured by higher scores on approach, high-intensity pleasure, and activity subscales. The second, labeled Negative Emotionality or Affectivity, is based on feelings of fear, anger, discomfort, and sadness. A third factor, called Effortful Control or Persistence, is defined by inhibitory control, attentional focusing, low-intensity pleasure, and perceptual sensitivity.

Generally, personality is seen to be broader and more differentiated than temperament, with personality incorporating behavior, motives, emotions, attitudes, and values (Digman, 1994). Because early-emerging temperamental characteristics are believed to mature and become elaborated over time into distinct personality traits (Caspi, 1998), researchers have attempted to delineate how dimensions of temperament converge with the Big Five personality dimensions (Halverson, Kohnstramm, & Martin, 1994). Interestingly, the three factors of Positive Emotionality, Negative Emotionality, and Effortful Control appear to map onto three of the Big Five personality dimensions. Specifically, Positive Emotionality maps onto the Extroversion personality dimension in the Big Five, Negative Emotionality maps onto Neuroticism, and Effortful Control maps onto Conscientiousness (Ahadi & Rothbart, 1994; Sanson & Rothbart, 1995). Other scholars, too, have pointed to the overlap between early emerging dimensions of temperament and adolescent and adult personality structure (Caspi, 1998; Digman, 1994; John et al., 1994; Shiner, 1998).

Continuity in Temperament and Personality

The assumption that temperamental attributes present in childhood are predictive of later temperamental or personality attributes leads us to ask whether there is continuity in these attributes—a question that can only be answered with longitudinal studies following the same individuals from childhood to adulthood. Such studies have examined stability coefficients, that is, correlations between specific temperamental attributes in infancy or childhood and those same aspects of temperament at a later point. Earlier studies of temperamental stability indicated only moderate stability across time, but more recent studies that have controlled for conceptual and methodological problems show relatively high stabilities (in the .70s to .80s) in temperamental characteristics such as sociability and irritability from infancy to age 7 or 8 years (Pedlow, Sanson, Prior, & Oberklaid, 1993; Sanson & Rothbart, 1995). Thus, there is evidence for continuity in temperamental characteristics, although there is also room for change.

Insight into the issue of continuity is also gained by examining how early temperament is linked with later personality traits. One study, conducted in New Zealand, followed individuals from age 3 to young adulthood (Caspi, 2000; Caspi & Silva, 1995). At the age of 3, analyses identified three replicable groups of children based on ratings of their behavior. These groups were labeled as Undercontrolled (e.g., impulsive), Inhibited (e.g., fearful), and Well Adjusted (e.g., coped well, friendly). At the age of 18, these groups were reassessed for personality traits. There were clear and significant associations between temperamental styles at age 3 and personality at age 18. For example, children who were undercontrolled at age 3 had similar characteristics at age 18: They were characterized as impulsive, danger-seeking, high on negative emotionality, and engaged in conflict with others. Inhibited children became rather cautious as young adults, showing a restrained behavioral style: harm-avoidant, not aggressive, and not interpersonally assertive. Well-adjusted children became normal young adults, showing no extreme scores on any personality dimension.

Thus, this study provided evidence for continuity in behavioral styles from early childhood through adolescence. Moreover, in the longer term the early temperamental characteristics of these children were predictive of a wide variety of aspects of functioning, including the quality of interpersonal relations, the availability of social support, unemployment, psychiatric disorders, and criminal behavior (Caspi, 2000). Other studies, too, demonstrate continuities in temperament and personality characteristics such as behavioral inhibition and shyness (Kagan, 1989; Katainen, Räikkönen, & Keltikangas-Järvinen, 1998). Continuities in personality may result from a kind of snowballing effect in which early temperamental styles create consequences, situations, and interactions with others that serve to reinforce natural tendencies (Caspi & Silva, 1995).

The Goodness-of-Fit Model of Temperament

Even though there are clear links between one’s early personality and later functioning, some authors assert that the import of temperament is best understood by examining the context in which it takes place. A goodness-of-fit model of temperament posits that the impact of children’s temperament on their development is a function of how well their temperamental characteristics fit the demands of the social context (Chess & Thomas, 1999; Thomas & Chess, 1977). When the child’s temperament matches those demands, there is a greater likelihood that social interactions will be favorable to the child’s development. A poor fit, however, may jeopardize his or her social interactions and subsequent psychosocial adjustment (Chess & Thomas, 1999; Lerner & Lerner, 1983; Nitz, Lerner, Lerner, & Talwar, 1988; Talwar, Nitz, & Lerner, 1990; Thomas & Chess, 1977). In one study (East et al., 1992), young adolescents’ fit with their peer group was measured by assessing the difference between adolescents’ own temperamental characteristics and their classroom peers’judgments of preferred temperamental characteristics in classmates. These difference or fit scores were then correlated with measures of adolescents’ psychosocial competence. As expected, the adolescent’s fit with peer group demands for particular temperamental attributes was linked with a variety of measures. For instance, adolescents whose characteristics of adaptability (mood, flexibility, and approach behaviors) matched their peers’demands for adaptability received favorable nominations from peers on sociometric measures. Fit scores for adaptability and rhythmicity also were linked with self- and teacher-rated psychosocial competence. Moreover, some of the relations between fit and psychosocial competence were found consistently across three times of measurement from the beginning to the end of Grade 6. These findings provide evidence that a closer match between the adolescent’s temperament and the social context is linked with more desirable psychosocial functioning.

Goodness-of-Fit in Parent and Adolescent Temperaments

One way to conceptualize adolescents’ fit with the social context is to consider how adolescents’and parents’temperaments work together. That is, both members of a parentadolescent dyad bring to their relationship temperamental characteristics that may be complementary—or that may clash. In this sense, one family member’s temperament imposes demands on the other, whose own temperament may not fit with those demands (Kawaguchi, Welsh, Powers, & Rostosky, 1998). For example, an adolescent who is rigid with respect to approaching new situations might have a more harmonious relationship with a parent who is flexible than with a parent who is equally rigid. Mismatched temperamental styles might eventuate in conflicted or perhaps even hostile relations. Few researchers have examined parentadolescent relations as a joint function of the temperaments of parents and adolescents, although there are such studies of younger children (Belsky, 1996; Kawaguchi et al., 1998).

In a test of a goodness-of-fit model in parent and adolescent temperaments, Galambos and Turner (1999) examined in 7th-grade adolescents and their parents whether two broad dimensions of parent and adolescent temperaments (i.e., adaptability and activity level) combined or interacted to predict the quality of parent-adolescent relations. There were significant interactions between parent and adolescent dimensions of temperament in the prediction of some aspects of the parent-adolescent relationship. For example, motherson conflict was highest in dyads comprised of mothers low on adaptability and their low-activity sons. The authors speculated that low activity levels in sons were not interpreted happily by less adaptable mothers who might have expected boys to be highly active (in keeping with sex stereotypes). On the other hand, mother-daughter conflict was highest in dyads in which mothers were less adaptable and daughters were more active. Again, less adaptable mothers may have had difficulties with girls whose patterns of high activity were not in keeping with traditional sex stereotypes of appropriate female behavior. Another set of results demonstrated that the combination of low adaptability in both fathers and daughters was associated with more psychologically controlling behavior in the fathers. Moreover, less adaptable daughters reported higher levels of conflict with their less adaptable fathers than did other daughters. Low adaptability may be a risk factor for less optimal parentadolescent relations, particularly when found in both members of the parent-adolescent dyad. Although these results were based on correlational data, they are consistent with a goodness-of-fit model. Selected aspects of parent and adolescent temperaments fit better with each other than do others, as indicated by the quality of parent-adolescent relations.

Emerging Trends and Future Directions

In the previous sections we have reviewed contemporary research related to emotional well-being, emotional distress, personality, and temperament during adolescence. In this final section we would like to highlight four emerging areas of investigation in research on emotions and personality in adolescence. These trends include (a) a more explicit focus on indications of optimal emotional adjustment in adolescence, (b) an examination of cultural variations in emotions and personality during adolescence, (c) an integration of temperament into the study of adolescent adjustment, and (d) the increasing use of person approaches to studying emotion and personality.

A Focus on Optimal Development

The first emerging theme in research on adolescents’ emotional and personality development is a focus on positive adolescent development (Lerner, Fisher, & Weinberg, 2000; Lerner & Galambos, 1998). Adolescent research has been criticized for focusing too much on adolescent problem behaviors and distress, or defining positive development as the absence of difficulties, rather than focusing explicitly on the development of positive, adaptive qualities (Galambos & Leadbeater, 2000; Larson, 2000; Schulenberg, Maggs, & Hurrelmann, 1997; Wagner, 1996). However, research into healthy adolescent development is emerging. Some of this work identifies the protective factors that enable youth in high-risk environments to reach their full potentials. For example, a review of programs designed to promote healthy youth development (Roth, Brooks-Gunn, Murray, & Foster, 1998) highlights the diverse ways in which communities and schools are working to build strengths among adolescents.

Other research in this area explores the development of specific positive qualities among all adolescents. For instance, Wentzel and McNamara (1999) examined the development of prosocial behaviors among early adolescents. Prosocial behaviors, such as cooperation, sharing, and helping, were assessed through peer nominations. They found that prosocial behaviors are facilitated by feelings of peer acceptance. The role of family support in the development of prosocial behaviors was indirect, mediated by emotional distress. Thus, adolescents who are accepted by their peers and who are able to regulate their emotions effectively may have more opportunities to learn prosocial skills. Larson (2000) focused on the development of initiative during adolescence. He defined initiative as the internal motivation to pursue a challenging goal and saw it as a prerequisite for the development of other positive qualities such as leadership and altruism. Adolescents who display initiative feel invested in and excited about their futures. Larson’s research highlights the types of contexts that promote initiative and other positive qualities.These contexts consist of structured extracurricular activities, such as sports or organized hobbies, which provide the intrinsic motivation and concentrated attention that are believed to foster initiative.

In order to examine positive adolescent development systematically, a model or definition of the components of optimal development is necessary. Lerner et al. (2000) outlined a model of adolescent development in which five broad features of positive adolescent development are identified. These five characteristics include (a) Caring/Compassion (e.g., empathy), (b) Competence (cognitive, behavioral, and social), (c) Character (e.g., integrity), (d) Connection (e.g., positive bonds with others and with society), and (e) Confidence (e.g., self-efficacy). Similarly, Wagner (1996) developed a model of optimal development in adolescence. He defined aspects of optimal development within six domains: Biological, Cognitive, Emotional, Social, Moral, and Vocational. Within the Emotional domain, for example, optimal development is indicated by qualities such as emotional awareness, self-confidence, optimism, and resilience. Such attention to positive adolescent development holds great promise to increase our understanding of the developmental factors and assets that enable adolescents not just to survive but to thrive (Scales, Benson, Leffert, & Blyth, 2000).

Cultural Variations in Emotional and Personality Development

A second theme that is emerging in research on adolescents’ emotional and personality development concerns the role of culture and ethnicity in adolescent development. It is beyond the scope of this research paper to review all of the literature on cultural influences and differences in adolescent development. However, here we survey some of the major areas of inquiry.

The past decade has seen increasing interest in examining the emotional well-being of ethnically diverse adolescents (e.g.,Luster&McAdoo,1994;McAdoo,1993).AmongAsian and Asian American adolescents, researchers have investigated indicators of adjustment such as psychosocial competence (Mantzicopoulos & Oh-Hwang, 1998; Sim, 2000), autonomy (Juang, Lerner, McKinney, & von Eye, 1999), and self-esteem (Watkins, Dong, & Xia, 1997), as well as indicators of maladjustment, such as anxiety (Hishinuma, Miyamoto, Nishimura, & Nahalu, 2000), depression (Ying, Lee, Tsai, Yeh, & Huang, 2000), and psychological distress (Chiu, Feldman, & Rosenthal, 1992). Because most theories of emotional development in adolescence were developed based on research with European American participants, research with ethnically diverse participants is necessary to evaluate whether theories of adolescence generalize to other segments of the population. Some of this literature highlights similarities in the predictors of adolescent emotional development across ethnic groups. Using Chinese adolescents as an example, many aspects of positive parenting, such as warm parent-child relationships, firm control, monitoring, and the absence of coercive exchanges, are related to higher levels of adolescent emotional well-being in locations such as Hong Kong (Shek, 1997a, 1997b) and Shanghai (Chen, Dong, & Zhou, 1997; Chen, Liu, & Li, 2000; Chen, Rubin, & Li, 1997). However, within NorthAmerica the evidence is mixed. Some researchers find similar relationships between parenting and adolescents’ emotional adjustment across cultural groups (Greenberger & Chen, 1996; Kim & Ge, 2000), whereas others find that these relationships do not replicate in different cultural groups (e.g., Barrett Singer & Weinstein, 2000) or that the specific domains of adolescent adjustment that are affected vary by cultural group (e.g., Bradley & Corwyn, 2000). An important area for future research is to continue to evaluate whether the cultural context within NorthAmerica moderates the effects of external factors on adolescent’s emotional well-being and distress (e.g., Collins, Maccoby, Steinberg, Hetherington, & Bornstein, 2000).

Research with adolescents from ethnically diverse backgrounds also highlights the need to consider emotional development in a cultural context. For instance, Costigan and Cauce (in press) examined developmental changes in adolescent autonomy and parent-adolescent conflict across adolescence among a sample of African American mothers and daughters. Although past literature has described African American mothers as restrictive or authoritarian, findings from this study suggested that mothers were appropriately selective in their willingness to relinquish control and grant autonomy. For example, mothers retained a higher amount of decision-making authority around important safety-related issues, despite a high level of conflict, whereas they allowed greater adolescent autonomy around personal issues such as hairstyles. These findings illustrate the challenge that African American mothers face in balancing the demands of protecting children while also fostering a sense of competence. For African American families such parenting challenges may be met through the assistance of an extended family network that provides goods, services, and emotional support to its members (McAdoo, 1997). Clearly, how the cultural contexts helps shape adolescents’ emotional development merits further attention.

Another way in which culture may affect adolescents’ emotional development is by influencing adolescents’ tendencies to express different emotions and the strategies used to regulate emotions. Emotions are managed in culturespecific ways (Thompson, 1994). First, there are cultural differences in how adolescents construe emotional events. For example, Liem, Lim, and Liem (2000) argued that the emotional responses of Asian Americans are generally more other oriented, focusing on interdependence, whereas European Americans are generally more self-oriented, focusing on independence. They find that these self-construals change as a result of acculturation. Second, cultures differ in their expectations for emotional displays (Campos et al., 1994). Chinese parents, for example, view dependency, caution, behavioral inhibition, and self-restraint in children more favorably than do parents in Western cultures (Chen, Rubin, & Li, 1997). Finally, cultures have varying emotional baselines and tolerances for the expression of emotions such as support, disagreement, and disapproval (Stillars, 1995). When there is a higher overall baseline for an emotion, there is also a greater tolerance for its expression, so that its expression in any given instance carries less impact. Alternatively, the impact of expressing an emotion for which there is less tolerance is accentuated (Stillars, 1995). This may be one mechanism by which culture moderates the effects of external events, such as parenting, on adolescent adjustment. For example, if lower levels of emotional expressiveness are more normative in Chinese culture, then Chinese parents may not be experienced as less warm by their children (e.g., Chao, 1994). In comparison with Western adolescents, an objectively lower amount of warmth may need to be present before the Chinese adolescents experience it as such.

A consideration of cultural influences also highlights culture-specific predictors of emotional well-being and culture-specific domains of emotional development. For example, for African American adolescents, perceptions of differential treatment based on race are associated with increases in depression and anger over time (Roeser et al., 1998). Furthermore, issues such as family obligations (e.g., Fuligni, Tseng, & Lam, 1999), parental respect (e.g., Chao, 2000), intergenerational value discrepancies (e.g., Phinney, Ong, & Madden, 2000), and acculturative stress are important constructs to examine in order to gain a full understanding of the emotional adjustment of immigrant and minority adolescents (e.g., Fuertes & Westbrook, 1996; Hovey & King, 1996; Kwan & Sodowsky, 1997; Thompson, Anderson, & Bakeman, 2000).

Perhaps the most salient culture-specific domain of emotional adjustment for ethnically diverse adolescents is ethnic identity. Ethnic identity is an important component of overall identity formation, and adolescence is a crucial time for ethnic identity exploration and commitment (Phinney, 1992). Spencer and colleagues (Spencer, Dupree, & Hartmann, 1997) proposed a phenomenological variant of ecological systems theory (PVEST) model to explain the development of stable identities (including ethnic identity) and other aspects of healthy youth development. This model suggests that ethnic identity formation results from an interaction between the stressors that youths encounter in daily life and the subjective understanding or meaning that adolescents ascribe to these experiences.

Ethnic identity is comprised of two primary factors: ethnic identification (e.g., pride in one’s ethnic group) and exploration (e.g., trying to find out more about one’s ethnic group; Spencer, Icard, Harachi, Catalano, & Oxford, 2000). Adolescence is a key time for ethnic identity development because of advancing cognitive abilities as well as specific ethnic socialization experiences (Quintana, Castañeda-English, & Ybarra, 1999; Spencer et al., 1997). The salience of ethnic identity changes with changes in context, such as moving to a location where one is a minority member (Ichiyama, McQuarrie, & Ching, 1996). However, greater acculturation to a host culture does not necessarily mean a decrease in ethnic identification (Liu, Pope-Davis, Nevitt, & Toporek, 1999). Finally, ethnic identity has implications for adolescents’emotional well-being. In general, a stronger sense of one’s ethnic identityisrelatedtohigherfeelingsofself-esteem(Gray-Little & Hafdahl, 2000; Phinney, Cantu, & Kurtz, 1997; Phinney & Chavira, 1992) and self-efficacy (Smith, Walker, Fields, Brookins, & Seay, 1999). However, the relationship between ethnic identity and psychological adjustment is not always consistent and may depend on other factors such as one’s identification with the host culture and the ethnic density of one’s community (Eyou,Adair, & Dixon, 2000; McAdoo, 1993).

Integration of Temperament Into the Study of Adolescent Adjustment

Athird emerging theme in research on adolescents’emotional and personality development concerns integrating the role of temperament into models of adolescent adjustment. Research in this area has accelerated as the construct of emotion regulation has gained prominence in the study of adolescent development. The first step in integrating temperament into this research is to differentiate temperament from related constructs such as mood and emotion regulation. For instance, as outlined by Kagan (1994), the concept of emotion has been used to refer to acute and temporary changes in feeling, more permanent affective states that endure over years, and temperamentally based predispositions to react to events in certain ways. Kagan argues that we need to distinguish between chronic mood states and temperamental characteristics. Individuals with various temperaments differ in the ease with which they experience different emotions, and the emotions experienced may be qualitatively different. Indeed, Kagan (1998) concluded that variation in temperamental characteristics helps to explain why some children do not experience trauma-related symptoms even in the face of major stressors such as kidnapping or divorce. Rothbart and Bates (1998) proposed a number of possible models of the direct, indirect, and interactive effects of multiple temperamental traits on multiple adjustment indicators. Their explication of such linkages provides an abundance of possible processes that can and should be investigated.

Furthermore, we need to differentiate between temperament and emotion regulation skills (Underwood, 1997). Temperament affects the intensity of emotional experience. As a result, an individual who experiences emotions more intensely faces a greater challenge in emotion regulation. Similarly, individuals with different temperaments experience different levels of arousability. Because of differences in arousability, it is difficult to determine whether an adolescent who is apparently effectively managing an emotionallychallengingsituationissuperioratemotionregulation compared with an adolescent who is having more difficulty, or whether that adolescent is simply less reactive (Kagan, 1994). Future research needs to distinguish purposeful emotion regulation from low arousability.

The concept of emotion regulation highlights the role of temperament in socialization processes (e.g., Contreras et al., 2000). Much attention has been directed at the environmental antecedents of different emotional states, positive and negative. For instance, as reviewed earlier, parenting behaviors influence the development of adaptive emotion regulation, such as self-esteem and psychosocial maturity, as well as dysregulated emotions such as depression. However, adolescent adjustment and maladjustment are affected not only by an interpersonal environment that encourages or discourages certain qualities, but also by a person’s temperamental dispositions (Kagan, 1994). Future research needs to assess how temperament and socialization work together to influence the development of emotion regulation (Underwood, 1997).

Different models for considering both temperament and socialization in adolescent adjustment are emerging. For instance, Calkins (1994) integrated research on the developmental consequences of temperament and parenting styles in her model of the development of social competence in childhood. She examines the relative contributions of internal and external sources of individual differences in emotion regulation. Internal factors include temperamental characteristics such as physiological regulation (e.g., heart rate) and behavioral tendencies (e.g., soothability, reactivity). External factors include parents’ explicit training in emotion regulation skills as well as more global parenting styles (e.g., responsiveness, control). In this model, these internal and external factors independently influence a child’s emotion regulation style, which in turn affects subsequent interpersonal functioning such as relationships with peers (Calkins, 1994).

Other models highlight the transactional, bidirectional relationship between temperament and socialization (Collins et al., 2000; Wills et al., 1995). Reciprocal models of parent and child effects (e.g., Bell & Chapman, 1986) are not new to the study of child development. These models consider not only how parenting practices affect child development but also how children’s behavioral qualities affect the type of parenting they receive. Some of the research in this area has focused specifically on temperament. For instance, children with impulsive and irritable temperaments elicit more negative parenting than do children with less difficult temperaments (Dix, 1991). A longitudinal study found that parental punitive reactions to children’s negative emotions at ages 6 to 8 were linked to increases in these children’s problem behaviors and negative emotions by early adolescence (ages 10 to 12; Eisenberg et al., 1999). Such bidirectional models are rare, but much needed, in the study of emotions and socialization in adolescence.

Another model of how temperament can be integrated into studies of adolescent adjustment is emerging from research demonstrating how temperamental traits affect adolescents’ susceptibility to parenting and other external events (e.g., Colder, Lochman, & Wells, 1997). What might promote positive adjustment for one adolescent, or most adolescents, may be relatively ineffective with other adolescents. In childhood, evidence is accumulating that different children may require and respond to different levels of structure and support based on their temperamental characteristics (e.g., Belsky, Hsieh, & Crnic, 1998). For example, a hyperactive child may respond well to the type of strict limit setting that would stifle the competence of a shy child. Thus, temperament may moderate the association between parenting practices and adolescent adjustment.

Recent work with youth in late childhood and early adolescence examines these models. For instance, Lengua and colleagues (Lengua & Sandler, 1996; Lengua, Wolchik, Sandler, & West, 2000) have examined the role of temperament in early adolescents’ adaptation to parental divorce. In one study the temperamental trait of approach-flexibility (one’s orientation toward change and new situations) moderated relationships between adolescents’ coping styles and their psychological symptoms. In particular, active coping strategies were related to less anxiety for adolescents with flexible temperaments but was unrelated to adjustment for adolescents with less flexible temperaments. Avoidant coping styles were related to greater anxiety and conduct problems for adolescents with less flexible temperaments but were unrelated to adjustment for adolescents with more flexible temperaments. Thus, certain temperamental styles appear to be protective.

In another study of adolescent adjustment to parental divorce, Lengua et al. (2000) found that early adolescents’ temperaments moderated the relationship between parenting practices and their psychological adjustment. Specifically, they found that inconsistent discipline and parental rejection were related to adolescent depression only for adolescents with more difficult temperaments (high on impulsivity and low on positive emotionality). Similarly, inconsistent discipline and parental rejection were related to conduct problems for adolescents low in positive emotionality and high on impulsivity. These parenting styles were unrelated to conduct problems for adolescents with easier temperaments (high on positive emotionality and low on impulsivity).

Finally, in a sample of fourth- and fifth-grade boys, Colder et al. (1997) found that temperament (i.e., fear and activity levels) moderated the relationship between parenting behaviors and children’s adjustment. For example, harsh parenting was related to high levels of aggression only for boys with highly fearful temperaments, and poor parental monitoring was related to higher levels of aggression only for boys with highly active temperaments. In addition, both harsh parenting and overinvolved parenting were related to greater symptoms of depression only for boys with highly fearful temperaments.

Overall, the previous studies illustrate some of the challenges faced by researchers who wish to incorporate adolescent temperament into the study of adolescent adjustment, as well as some of the theoretical models that are being used to study these effects. Future research that continues to integrate temperament will likely lead to important advances in our understanding of how to promote healthy adolescent adjustment.

Person Approaches to Understanding Emotion and Personality

A fourth emerging theme is captured by the increasing number of empirical studies of adolescent emotional and personality development that are based on person (or pattern) approaches (e.g., Caspi, 2000; Salmivalli, 1998; Schulenberg, Wadsworth, O’Malley, Bachman, & Johnston, 1996). The person approach considers individuals in a holistic manner, as organisms consisting of multiple attributes (e.g., cognitive, biological, behavioral) that are integrated into an organized system (Block, 1971; Magnusson & Törestad, 1993). Advocates of the person approach argue that the individual’s pattern or profile across a number of indicators (the total configuration of variables) may carry more meaning for understanding that individual’s development than do single variables (Magnusson & Cairns, 1996). The person is the unit of analysis, and individuals who share similar profiles are grouped together (Stattin & Magnusson, 1996). These groups may then be compared on other relevant variables and developmental trajectories.

The person approach can be contrasted with the traditional variable approach, on which most research on adolescence is based. The variable approach examines interrelations among single variables, assuming that these interrelations justify inferences about how variables function in individuals (Magnusson & Cairns, 1996). Magnusson and Törestad (1993) argued, however, that the variable approach masks qualitative differences among people and is limited with respect to delineating how variables operate together within subgroups of individuals. Indeed, in a longitudinal study following individuals from childhood to early adulthood, Stattin and Magnusson (1996) showed that more variance in adult externalizing behaviors was explained by the constellation of characteristics present in adolescence (i.e., a combination of the adolescent’s involvement in multiple risk behaviors such as truancy and family background risks such as father’s alcoholism) rather than by individual predictor variables.

The person approach can be applied to many phenomena in the study of adolescent emotional and personality development. It may be one way to answer the frequent call for more examination and integration of multiple levels of adolescent development, including the biological, psychological, cognitive, and contextual (e.g., Susman, 1997).

Consider a recent study by Galambos and Tilton-Weaver (2000). These authors were intrigued by speculation in the literature on psychosocial maturity that some adolescents, rather than being psychosocially mature, were actually pseudomature: They maintained the appearance of maturity through behavioral means (e.g., engagement in problem behaviors such as drinking) without showing genuine psychological maturity (e.g., a stable sense of identity, selfreliance, and a strong work ethic; Greenberger & Steinberg, 1986). Galambos and Tilton-Weaver were also intrigued by previous findings showing that adolescents who engaged in higher levels of problem behavior also had older subjective ages (i.e., they felt older than their chronological ages), indicating a possible mismatch between their subjective levels of maturity and their actual behavior (Galambos, Kolaric, Sears, & Maggs, 1999). Following a person approach, Galambos and Tilton-Weaver hypothesized that pseudomaturity could be defined by high levels of problem behavior, an older subjective age, and low levels of psychological maturity—a constellation of behavioral, psychological, and subjective attributes. Indeed, in a sample of Canadian adolescents ranging in age from 10 to 17, 13% emerged as pseudomature (high problem behavior, older subjective age, low psychological maturity). There was also a mature cluster (43% of the sample) who were low on problem behavior, felt slightly older than their chronological ages, and scored high on psychological maturity. The final cluster, immature adolescents, comprised 44% of the sample. They reported low levels of problem behavior, were psychologically immature, and felt relatively young.

The three clusters of adolescents who emerged differed in other ways as well (Galambos & Tilton-Weaver, 2000). Compared to the mature and immature adolescents, the pseudomature adolescents were more advanced with respect to pubertal status, reported a stronger desire to be older and to attain adult privileges, were more socially active, and reported more conflict with mothers (among boys). Compared to mature adolescents, immature adolescents reported a stronger desire to be older, more conflict with mothers, and less acceptance from mothers. The authors concluded that both pseudomature and immature adolescents had a poorer fit with their social environments than did the mature adolescents.

This and similar research speak to the advantages of using person approaches to understand the adolescent as a whole person with multiple, interrelated attributes. Some research questions demand that researchers attempt to integrate biological (including hormonal), cognitive, emotional, psychological, and contextual characteristics in seeking to understand adolescents’ lifelong development. The person approach is an exciting paradigm that will add much to our accumulating knowledge of emotional and personality development in adolescence.


In this research paper we highlighted research on adolescents’ emotional development, describing emotion regulation as a useful framework for viewing and uniting broad areas of research on emotional well-being and distress. Theory on adolescents’ self-systems and their psychosocial maturity were discussed as models that integrate a variety of indicators of adaptive emotion regulation. The general concepts of internalizing and externalizing problems were discussed as indicative of adolescents’ emotional distress and reflective of the experience of emotional dysregulation. Given the significant gender difference in the prevalence of internalizing disorders (with more adolescent girls affected), we reviewed recent research on predictors and correlates of internalizing symptoms.

We also reviewed some recent research on personality and temperament in adolescence, identifying major issues in the structure of personality, the origins of personality, and continuity in personality and temperament across time. Recent research shows that the Big Five model of personality, based on years of research with adult samples, replicates in samples of adolescents. Moreover, links have been established between dimensions of temperament in childhood and later personality traits. The goodness-of-fit model of temperament was reviewed as a way of understanding how temperament may be shaped, viewed, and responded to differently depending on the social context.

Finally, we identified four exciting themes in recent research on emotion and personality development. The first is a focus on adolescents’ optimal development, with a call for better measurement of successful outcomes. The second refers to cultural variations in emotional and personality development, a trend that has burgeoned over the last several years. The third theme involves studies that integrate knowledge of temperament into studies of adolescent adjustment, focusing on the role that temperament may play in emotional expression and regulation. The fourth emerging theme involves increasing interest in conducting studies of adolescents’ emotional and personality development from a person approach, which considers intra-individual constellations of multiple attributes in the search for understanding developmental trajectories.

Knowledge emerging from research on these themes has potentially important implications for the targeting, design, and effectiveness of prevention and intervention programs. The identification of emotion regulation as a salient marker of positive youth development means that school- and community-based programs can be designed to help young people regulate and cope with their emotions. Emotion regulation is a strength that consists of a set of skills and strategies, and this asset can be acquired. Teaching effective emotion regulation fits with the goals of prevention programs designed to promote healthy youth development by increasing youth strengths (e.g., Roth et al., 1998).

But do all children and adolescents need training in effective emotion regulation? The research examined here suggests that successful emotion regulation is more of a challenge for some children and adolescents than for others, for example, those with a set of individual risk factors, such as a temperament characterized by negative emotionality and strong reactivity. Thus, in addition to general school- and community-based programs for adolescents at large, some intervention programs could be designed to target at-risk children and adolescents (e.g., those who have been identified as having anger control problems or being easily distressed). If deficits in emotion regulation are caught and addressed early enough, it is likely that the individual will have a more positive developmental trajectory into adulthood.

Prevention and intervention programs should incorporate the important role of parents in promoting positive youth development. Research on the interaction between parenting and temperament is moving toward a clearer understanding of parenting behaviors that are more or less suited to particular temperaments (i.e., goodness of fit). Given the central role of parenting in promoting positive youth development, a wide range of family strengthening and parent-training programs has been developed (for a review, see Kumpfer, 1999). The goals of these programs are to decrease the risk factors associated with developmental problems and increase protective family factors, including supportive parent-child relations. The promotion of emotion regulation strategies and prevention of emotional dysregulation among parents and adolescents could be included as important components of these programs.

In designing effective interventions and social policies, we need to know more about how families, peers, schools, and cultural contexts moderate the relationships among temperament, emotional regulation, and adolescent adjustment. Attention to diverse cultural contexts is particularly important in this regard. For instance, we need to know more about the contexts that promote the achievement of stable ethnic identities, the stressors that challenge ethnic identity development, and the relationship of ethnic identity to other indicators of well being. In addition, we need to identify ways in which models of healthy youth development apply to culturally diverse adolescents (e.g., universal protective factors) and the ways in which they need to be modified to fit unique experiences (e.g., incorporating the experience of racism).

The four emerging themes that we have identified are just beginning to provide the specific empirical knowledge we need to design effective prevention and intervention efforts. To accomplish this, however, it is essential that social policies support (a) the view that the emotion regulation is an issue of health promotion, (b) funding for basic research in the general area of emotion regulation, (c) funding for research and programming that explicitly addresses similarities and differences in the needs and strengths of adolescents from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and (d) funding for applied research that evaluates the effectiveness of prevention and intervention programs designed to increase effective emotion regulation.

As this research paper has shown, researchers have learned a great deal about adolescents’ emotional and personality development. The field of research on adolescence is a very active and exciting one, with promising new developments that bring us ever closer to obtaining a more comprehensive understanding of the interacting forces that shape adolescent behavior. With a more complete picture, we will be better able to influence adolescents’ lives in ways that will be of benefit to them as they mature into adulthood.


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