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

Dev Psychopathol. 2019 May;31(2):601-617. doi: 10.1017/S0954579418000159. Epub 2018 Apr 29.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Character*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Development*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Temperament*