Skip to main content Accessibility help

The development of temperament and character during adolescence: The processes and phases of change

  • Ada H. Zohar (a1), Igor Zwir (a2), Jiayu Wang (a2), C. Robert Cloninger (a2) and Andrey P. Anokhin (a2)...


We studied the pattern of personality development in a longitudinal population-based sample of 752 American adolescents. Personality was assessed reliably with the Junior Temperament and Character Inventory at 12, 14, and 16 years of age. The rank-order stability of Junior Temperament and Character Inventory traits from age 12 to 16 was moderate (r = .35). Hierarchical linear modeling of between-group variance due to gender and within-group variance due to age indicated that harm avoidance and persistence decreased whereas self-directedness and cooperativeness increased from age 12 to 16. Novelty seeking, reward dependence, and self-transcendence increased from age 12 to 14 and then decreased. This biphasic pattern suggests that prior to age 14 teens became more emancipated from adult authorities while identifying more with the emergent norms of their peers, and after age 14 their created identity was internalized. Girls were more self-directed and cooperative than boys and maintained this advantage from age 12 to 16. Dependability of temperament at age 16 was mainly predicted by the same traits at earlier ages. In contrast, maturity of character at age 16 was predicted by both temperament and character at earlier ages. We conclude that character develops rapidly in adolescence to self-regulate temperament in accord with personally valued goals shaped by peers.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: C. Robert Cloninger, Washington University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Campus Box 8134, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110; E-mail:


Hide All

This work was supported by NIH Grants DA018899 and DA00421 (to A.A.) and by the Wallace Renard and the Sansone Family Endowments (to C.R.C.). Ada H. Zohar was a Visiting Scholar on sabbatical with support from the Ruppin Academic Center. The authors also acknowledge the generous gift of time and effort by the study participants.



Hide All
Andriola, E., Donfrancesco, R., Zaninotto, S., Di Trani, M., Cruciani, A. C., Innocenzi, M., … Cloninger, C. R. (2012). The Junior Temperament and Character Inventory: Italian validation of a questionnaire for the measurement of personality from ages 6 to 16 years. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 53, 884892. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2012.01.008.
Arnett, J. J. (1999). Adolescent storm and stress, reconsidered. American Psychologist, 54, 317326.
Battaglia, M., Przybeck, T. R., Bellodi, L., & Cloninger, C. R. (1996). Temperament dimensions explain the comorbidity of psychiatric disorders. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 37, 292298. doi:10.1016/S0010-440X(96)90008-5.
Bayon, C., Hill, K., Svrakic, D. M., Przybeck, T. R., & Cloninger, C. R. (1996). Dimensional assessment of personality in an out-patient sample: Relations of the systems of Millon and Cloninger. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 30, 341352. doi:10.1016/0022-3956(96)00024-6.
Blonigen, D. M., Durbin, C. E., Hicks, B. M., Johnson, W., McGue, M., & Iacono, W. G. (2015). Alcohol use initiation is associated with changes in personality trait trajectories from early adolescence to young adulthood. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 39, 21632170. doi:10.1111/acer.12878.
Brandstrom, S., Przybeck, T. R., & Sigvardsson, S. (2011). Reliability of informant ratings and spouse similarity based on the Temperament and Character Inventory. Psychological Reports, 109, 231242. doi:10.2466/02.09.PR0.109.4.231-242.
Campanella, F., Crescentini, C., Urgesi, C., & Fabbro, F. (2014). Mindfulness-oriented meditation improves self-related character scales in healthy individuals. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 55, 12691278. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2014.03.009.
Casey, B. J., Getz, S., & Galvan, A. (2008). The adolescent brain. Developmental Reviews, 28, 6277. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2007.08.00.
Castellanos-Ryan, N., Parent, S., Vitaro, F., Tremblay, R. E., & Seguin, J. R. (2013). Pubertal development, personality, and substance use: A 10-year longitudinal study from childhood to adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122, 782796. doi:10.1037/a0033133.
Chabrol, H., Melioli, T., & Goutaudier, N. (2015). Association between personality disorders traits and problematic cannabis use in adolescents. Substance Use and Misuse, 50, 552556. doi:10.3109/10826084.2014.984851.
Chambers, C. D., Garavan, H., & Bellgrove, M. A. (2009). Insights into the neural basis of response inhibition from cognitive and clinical neuroscience. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Review, 33, 631646. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.08.016.
Cicchetti, D., & Rogosch, F. A. (1996). Equifinality and multifinality in developmental psychopatology. Development and Psychopathology, 8, 597600.
Cloninger, C. R. (2000). A practical way to diagnose personality disorder: A proposal. Journal of Personality Disorders, 14, 99108.
Cloninger, C. R. (2003). Completing the psychobiological architecture of human personality development: Temperament, character, and coherence. In Staudinger, U. M. & Lindenberger, U. E. R. (Eds.), Understanding human development: Dialogues with lifespan psychology (pp. 159182). London: Kluwer Academic.
Cloninger, C. R. (2004). Feeling Good: The science of well-being. New York: Oxford University Press.
Cloninger, C. R. (2010). Personality and temperament: New and alternative perspectives. Focus, 8, 161163.
Cloninger, C. R., & Cloninger, K. M. (2011). Person-centered therapeutics. International Journal of Person-Centered Medicine, 1, 4352.
Cloninger, C. R., & Kedia, S. (2011). The phylogenesis of human personality: Identifying the precursors of cooperation, altruism, and well-being. In Sussman, R. W. & Cloninger, C. R. (Eds.), The origins of cooperation and altruism (1st ed., pp. 63110). New York: Springer.
Cloninger, C. R., & Svrakic, D. M. (2017). Personality disorders. In Sadock, B. J., Sadock, V. A., & Ruiz, P. (Eds.), Kaplan and Sadock's comprehensive textbook of psychiatry (10th ed., Vol. 1). Philadelphia: Wolter Kluver Health.
Cloninger, C. R., Svrakic, D. M., & Przybeck, T. R. (1993). A psychobiological model of temperament and character. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50, 975990.
Cloninger, C. R., Svrakic, N. M., & Svrakic, D. M. (1997). Role of personality self-organization in development of mental order and disorder. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 881906.
Cloninger, C. R., & Zohar, A. H. (2011). Personality and the perception of health and happiness. Journal of Affective Disorders, 128, 2432. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2010.06.012.
Cloninger, C. R., Zohar, A. H., & Cloninger, K. M. (2010). Promotion of well-being in person-centered mental health care. Focus, 8, 165179.
Cloninger, C. R., Zohar, A. H., Hirschmann, S., & Dahan, D. (2012). The psychological costs and benefits of being highly persistent: Personality profiles distinguish mood disorders from anxiety disorders. Journal of Affective Disorders, 136, 758766. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2011.09.046.
Copeland, W., Landry, K., Stanger, C., & Hudziak, J. J. (2004). Multi-informant assessment of temperament in children with externalizing behavior problems. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 33, 547556. doi:10.1207/s15374424jccp3303_12.
Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). The Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Csorba, J., Dinya, E., Ferencz, E., Steiner, P., Bertalan, G., & Zsadon, A. (2010). Novelty seeking: Difference between suicidal and non-suicidal Hungarian adolescent outpatients suffering from depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 120, 217220. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2009.03.008.
Eldreth, D., Hardin, M. G., Pavletic, N., & Ernst, M. (2013). Adolescent transformations of behavioral and neural processes as potential targets for prevention. Prevention Science, 14, 257266. doi:10.1007/s11121-012-0322-1.
Eley, D. S., Cloninger, C. R., Walter, L., Laurence, C., Synnott, R., & Wilkinson, D. (2013). The relationship between resilience and personality traits in doctors: Implications for enhancing well-being. Peer Journal, 1, e216. doi:10.7717/peerj.216.
Erikson, E. H. (1994). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton.
Fassino, S., Garzaro, L., Peris, C., Amianto, F., Piero, A., & Abbate Daga, G. (2002). Temperament and character in couples with fertility disorders: A double-blind, controlled study. Fertility and Sterility, 77, 12331240.
Friedman, H. S., Kern, M. L., Hampson, S. E., & Duckworth, A. L. (2014). A new life-span approach to conscientiousness and health: Combining the pieces of the causal puzzle. Developmental Psychology, 50, 13771389. doi:10.1037/a0030373.
Gardini, S., Cloninger, C. R., & Venneri, A. (2009). Individual differences in personality traits reflect structural variance in specific brain regions. Brain Research Bulletin, 79, 265270. doi:10.1016/j.brainresbull.2009.03.005.
George, S. M., Connor, J. P., Gullo, M. J., & Young, R. M. (2010). A prospective study of personality features predictive of adolescent alcohol misuse. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 204209. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.03.036.
Gillespie, N. A., Cloninger, C. R., Heath, A. C., & Martin, N. G. (2003). The genetic and environmental relationship between Cloninger's dimensions of temperament and character. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 19311946.
Göllner, R., Roberts, B. W., Damian, R. I., Ludtke, O., Jonkmann, K., & Trautwein, U. (2016). Whose “storm and stress” is it? Parent and child reports of personality development in the transition to early adolescence. Journal of Persnality. Advance online publication. doi:10.1111/jopy.12246.
Gomez, R., & Corr, P. J. (2014). ADHD and personality: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 34, 376388. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2014.05.002.
Gothelf, D., Aharonovsky, O., Horesh, N., Carty, T., & Apter, A. (2004). Life events and personality factors in children and adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 45, 192198. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2004.02.010.
Grucza, R. A., & Goldberg, L. R. (2007). The comparative validity of 11 modern personality inventories: Predictions of behavioral acts, informant reports, and clinical indicators. Journal of Personality Assessment, 89, 167187. doi:10.1080/00223890701468568.
Hiramura, H., Uji, M., Shikai, N., Chen, Z., Matsuoka, N., & Kitamura, T. (2011). Understanding externalizing behavior from children's personality and parenting characteristics. Psychiatry Research, 175, 142147. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2005.07.041.
Hollinghead, A. (1975). Four-Factor Index of Social Status. Unpublished manuscript, Yale University.
Josefsson, K., Jokela, M., Cloninger, C. R., Hintsanen, M., Salo, J., Hintsa, T., … Keltikangas-Jarvinen, L. (2013). Maturity and change in personality: Developmental trends of temperament and character in adulthood. Development and Psychopathology, 25, 713727. doi:10.1017/S0954579413000126.
Josefsson, K., Jokela, M., Hintsanen, M., Cloninger, C. R., Pulkki-Raback, L., Merjonen, P., … Keltikangas-Jarvinen, L. (2013). Parental care-giving anf home environment predicting offspring temperament and character traits after 18 years. Psychiatry Research, 209, 643651.
Joyce, P. R., Mulder, R. T., McKenzie, J. M., Luty, S. E., & Cloninger, C. R. (2004). Atypical depression, atypical temperament and a differential antidepressant response to fluoxetine and nortriptyline. Depression and Anxiety, 19, 180186. doi:10.1002/da.20001.
Kant, I. (1797). Anthropology from a pragmatic point of view (Dowdell, V. L. & Van De Pitte, F. P., Trans., 1978 ed.). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
Kern, M. L., Della Porta, S. S., & Friedman, H. S. (2014). Lifelong pathways to longevity: Personality, relationships, flourishing, and health. Journal of Personality, 82, 472484. doi:10.1111/jopy.12062.
Laucht, M., Becker, K., Blomeyer, D., & Schmidt, M. H. (2007). Novelty seeking involved in mediating the association between the dopamine D4 receptor gene exon III polymorphism and heavy drinking in male adolescents: Results from a high-risk community sample. Biological Psychiatry, 61, 8792. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.05.025.
Levine, B. (2004). Autobiographical memory and the self in time: Brain lesion effects, functional neuroanatomy, and lifespan development. Brain and Cognition, 55, 5468. doi:10.1016/S0278-2626(03)00280-X.
Luby, J. L., Svrakic, D. M., McCallum, K., Przybeck, T. R., & Cloninger, C. R. (1999). The Junior Temperament and Character Inventory: Preliminary validation of a child self-report measure. Psychological Reports, 84(3, Pt. 2), 11271138.
Luna, B., Padmanabhan, A., & O'Hearn, K. (2010). What has fMRI told us about the development of cognitive control through adolescence? Brain and Cognition, 72, 101113. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2009.08.005.
Maggini, C., Ampollini, P., Marchesi, C., Gariboldi, S., & Cloninger, C. R. (2000). Relationships between Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire Dimensions and DSM-III-R personality traits in Italian adolescents. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 41, 426431. doi:10.1053/comp.2000.16559.
Martinotti, G., Mandelli, L., Di Nicola, M., Serretti, A., Fossati, A., Borroni, S., … Janiri, L. (2008). Psychometric characteristic of the Italian version of the Temperament and Character Inventory—Revised, personality, psychopathology, and attachment styles. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 49, 514522. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2007.11.002.
McAdams, D. P. (2001). The psychology of life stories. Review of General Psychology, 5, 100122.
McCrae, R. R., Costa, P. T. Jr., Terracciano, A., Parker, W. D., Mills, C. J., De Fruyt, F., & Mervielde, I. (2002). Personality trait development from age 12 to age 18: Longitudinal, cross-sectional, and cross-cultural analyses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 14561468.
Meng, X. L., Rosenthal, R., & Rubin, D. B. (1992). Comparing correlated correlation coefficients. Psychological Bulletin, 111, 172175.
Moreira, P. A., Cloninger, C. R., Dinis, L., Sa, L., Oliveira, J. T., Dias, A., & Oliveira, J. (2014). Personality and well-being in adolescents. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1494. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01494.
Moreira, P. A., Oliveira, J. T., Cloninger, K. M., Azevedo, C., Sousa, A., Castro, J., & Cloninger, C. R. (2013). The psychometrics and validity of the Junior Temperament and Character Inventory in Portuguese adolescents. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 53, 12271236. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2012.04.014.
Mulaik, S. A. (2009). Foundations of factor analysis (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Mulder, R. T., Joyce, P. R., Sellman, J. D., Sullivan, P. F., & Cloninger, C. R. (1996). Towards an understanding of defense style in terms of temperament and character. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 93, 99104.
Mulder, R. T., Joyce, P. R., Sullivan, P. F., Bulik, C. M., & Carter, F. A. (1999). The relationship among three models of personality psychopathology: DSM-III-R personality disorder, TCI scores and DSQ defences. Psychological Medicine, 29, 943951.
Nieuwenhuis, J., Hooimeijer, P., & Meeus, W. (2015). Neighbourhood effects on educational attainment of adolescents, buffered by personality and educational commitment. Social Science Research, 50, 100109. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.11.011.
North, C. S., Abbacchi, A., & Cloninger, C. R. (2012). Personality and posttraumatic stress disorder among directly exposed survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 53, 18. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2011.02.005.
Pickett, K., & Wilkinson, R. (2009). The spirit level: Why greater equality makes societies stronger. New York: Bloombury Press.
Quoidbach, J., Hansenne, M., & Mottet, C. (2008). Personality and mental time travel: A differential approach to autonoetic consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 10821092. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2008.04.002.
Recchia, A. (2010). R-squared measures for two-level hierarchical linear models using SAS. Journal of Statistical Software, 31, 17408. doi:10.18637/jss.v032.c02.
Rettew, D. C., Althoff, R. R., Dumenci, L., Ayer, L., & Hudziak, J. J. (2008). Latent profiles of temperament and their relations to psychopathology and wellness. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 47, 273281. doi:10.1097/CHI.0b013e318160b403.
Rettew, D. C., Copeland, W., Stanger, C., & Hudziak, J. J. (2004). Associations between temperament and DSM-IV externalizing disorders in children and adolescents. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 25, 383391. doi:10.1016/00004703-200412000-00001.
Rettew, D. C., Doyle, A. C., Kwan, M., Stanger, C., & Hudziak, J. J. (2006). Exploring the boundary between temperament and generalized anxiety disorder: A receiver operating characteristic analysis. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 20, 931945. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2006.02.002.
Rettew, D. C., Stanger, C., McKee, L., Doyle, A., & Hudziak, J. J. (2006). Interactions between child and parent temperament and child behavior problems. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 47, 412420. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2005.12.008.
Rizzo, A. (2013). Temperament and generativity during the life span. Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1, 131. doi:10.6092/2282-1619/2013.1.892.
Rubia, K. (2013). Functional brain imaging across development. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 22, 719731. doi:10.1007/s00787-012-0291-8.
Spear, L. P. (2013). Adolescent neurodevelopment. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(2, Suppl. 2), S7S13. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.05.00.
Svrakic, D. M., Whitehead, C., Przybeck, T. R., & Cloninger, C. R. (1993). Differential diagnosis of personality disorders by the seven-factor model of temperament and character. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50, 991999.
Sydsjo, G., Lampic, C., Brandstrom, S., Gudmundsson, J., Karlstrom, P. O., Solensten, N. G., … Skoog Svanberg, A. (2012). Who becomes a sperm donor: Personality characteristics in a national sample of identifiable donors. BJOG, 119, 3339. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2011.03172.x.
Syed, M., & Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2013). Personality development from adolescence to emerging adulthood: Linking trajectories of ego development to the family context and identity formation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104, 371384. doi:10.1037/a0030070.
Tellegen, A., & Waller, N. G. (2008). Exploring personality through test construction: Development of the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire. In Boyle, G. J., Matthews, G., & Saklofske, D. H. (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of personality theory and assessment (Vol. 2, pp. 261292). London: SAGE.
Tillman, R., Geller, B., Craney, J. L., Bolhofner, K., Williams, M., Zimerman, B., … Beringer, L. (2003). Temperament and character factors in a prepubertal and early adolescent bipolar disorder phenotype compared to attention deficit hyperactive and normal controls. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 13, 531543. doi:10.1089/104454603322724922.
Tulving, E. (2001). Episodic memory and common sense: How far apart? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B Biological Sciences, 356, 15051515. doi:10.1098/rstb.2001.0937.
Vaillant, G. E. (1993). The wisdom of the ego. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Van den Akker, A. L., Dekovic, M., Asscher, J., & Prinzie, P. (2014). Mean-level personality development across childhood and adolescence: A temporary defiance of the maturity principle and bidirectional associations with parenting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107, 736750. doi:10.1037/a0037248.
Vanhalst, J., Klimstra, T. A., Luyckx, K., Scholte, R. H., Engels, R. C., & Goossens, L. (2012). The interplay of loneliness and depressive symptoms across adolescence: Exploring the role of personality traits. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 776787. doi:10.1007/s10964-011-9726-7.
Van Schuerbeek, P., Baeken, C., De Raedt, R., De Mey, J., & Luypaert, R. (2011). Individual differences in local gray and white matter volumes reflect differences in temperament and character: A voxel-based morphometry study in healthy young females. Brain Research, 1371, 3242. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2010.11.073.
Wilkinson, R., & Marmot, M. (2003). Social determinants of health: The solid facts. Copenhagen: World Health Organization.
Willoughby, K. A., Desrocher, M., Levine, B., & Rovet, J. F. (2012). Episodic and semantic autobiographical memory and everyday memory during late childhood and early adolescence. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 53. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00053.
Wortman, J., Lucas, R. E., & Donnellan, M. B. (2012). Stability and change in the Big Five personality domains: Evidence from a longitudinal study of Australians. Psychology and Aging, 27, 867874. doi:10.1037/a0029322.
Yeager, D. S., Johnson, R., Spitzer, B. J., Trzesniewski, K. H., Powers, J., & Dweck, C. S. (2014). The far-reaching effects of believing people can change: Implicit theories of personality shape stress, health, and achievement during adolescence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106, 867884. doi:10.1037/a0036335.
Zohar, A. H., Cloninger, C. R., & McCraty, R. (2013). Personality and heart rate variability: Exploring pathways from personality to cardiac coherence and health. Journal of Social Sciences, 1, 3239.
Zohar, A. H., Sandbank, B., & Gelfin, M. (2015). The range of plasticity of personality: Implications for identity. In Stoyanov, D. (Ed.), Toward a new philosophy of mental health: Perspectives from neurosciences and humanities (pp. 156172). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press.

The development of temperament and character during adolescence: The processes and phases of change

  • Ada H. Zohar (a1), Igor Zwir (a2), Jiayu Wang (a2), C. Robert Cloninger (a2) and Andrey P. Anokhin (a2)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed