Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 309–325 | Cite as

How Are Traits Related to Problem Behavior in Preschoolers? Similarities and Contrasts Between Temperament and Personality

  • Sarah S. W. De Pauw
  • Ivan Mervielde
  • Karla G. Van Leeuwen


The lack of empirical research relating temperament models and personality hinders conceptual integration and holds back research linking childhood traits to problem behavior or maladjustment. This study evaluates, within a sample of 443 preschoolers, the relationships between children’s maladaptation and traits measured by three temperament models (Thomas and Chess, Buss and Plomin, and Rothbart), and a Five-Factor based personality model. Adequate reliabilities and expected factor structures are demonstrated for most scales. A joint principal component analysis combining 28 temperament and 18 personality scales indicates a six-factor model, distinguishing Sociability, Activity, Conscientiousness, Disagreeableness, Emotionality, and Sensitivity. Regression analyses reveal that although single temperament and personality scales explain from 23% to 37% of problem behavior variance, the six components explain from 41% to 49% and provide a clearer differentiation among CBCL-problem scales. This age-specific taxonomy refines and corroborates conclusions based on narrative reviews and furnishes a more balanced view of trait–maladjustment relationships.


Temperament Personality Trait structure Problem behavior Maladjustment Preschoolers 



This study was supported by a Ph.D. research grant awarded by the Research Foundation Flanders to the first author (Grant nr: under supervision of the second author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah S. W. De Pauw
    • 1
  • Ivan Mervielde
    • 1
  • Karla G. Van Leeuwen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Developmental, Personality and Social PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Centre for Parenting, Child Welfare and DisabilitiesCatholic University of LouvainLouvainBelgium

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