The Temperamentally Shy Child as the Social Adult: An Exemplar of Multifinality



Does child temperament predict adult personality and social behavior? We argue that the antecedent and foundation of temperamental shyness observed in childhood and adulthood is rooted in temperamental inhibition first observed in early infancy, particularly inhibition to social novelty, which has a strong biological basis. With development, we believe the temperamental shyness phenotype becomes more intricate with the emergence of self-concept and the person now positioned within multiple contexts, each of which exerts different influences on shaping personality development. In this chapter, we review the developmental course and socioemotional outcomes of temperamental shyness. We first propose a developmental model of temperamental shyness that we have been developing over the last two decades.

The model illustrates links to temperamental inhibition, the multiple influences on temperamentally shy children across development, and how different types of temperamental shyness may develop over time and lead to multiple socioemotional outcomes in adulthood. Using this model, we then address three questions: (1) What is the developmental course of temperamental shyness from childhood to adulthood? (2) What factors alter the stability of temperamental shyness across development? (3) How are different types of shyness linked to distinct outcomes across development? We conclude with a discussion of some of the future avenues that are needed for research examining the developmental course of temperamental shyness across the lifespan.


Temperament Personality Shyness Inhibition Child Adult Development Longitudinal studies Trajectories Mental health problems Life course outcomes 



The writing of this chapter was supported by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) awarded to LAS, and CIHR and SSHRC Predoctoral Scholarships awarded to KLP and AT, respectively. The first two authors contributed equally to the writing of this chapter and are listed alphabetically.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & BehaviourMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Human Development and Quantitative MethodologyUniversity of Maryland – College ParkCollege ParkUSA

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