Background: Investigation of the environmental influences on human behavioral phenotypes is important for our understanding of the causation of psychiatric disorders. However, there are complexities associated with the assessment of environmental influences on behavior.
Methods/principal findings: We conducted a series of analyses using a prospective, longitudinal study of a nationally representative birth cohort from Finland (the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort). Participants included a total of 3,761 male and female cohort members who were living in Finland at the age of 16 years and who had complete temperament scores. Our initial analyses (Wessman et al., in press) provide evidence in support of four stable and robust temperament clusters. Using these temperament clusters, as well as independent temperament dimensions for comparison, we conducted a data-driven analysis to assess the influence of a broad set of life course measures, assessed pre-natally, in infancy, and during adolescence, on adult temperament.
Results: Measures of early environment, neurobehavioral development, and adolescent behavior significantly predict adult temperament, classified by both cluster membership and temperament dimensions. Specifically, our results suggest that a relatively consistent set of life course measures are associated with adult temperament profiles, including maternal education, characteristics of the family's location and residence, adolescent academic performance, and adolescent smoking.
Conclusions: Our finding that a consistent set of life course measures predict temperament clusters indicate that these clusters represent distinct developmental temperament trajectories and that information about a subset of life course measures has implications for adult health outcomes.