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Abstract

Because of the impressive replicability of the Five-Factor Model (FFM) in adult personality psychology, developmental psychologists have recently begun a search for the antecedents of these five adult dimensions in childhood. The FFM originates in rating scales applied to ‘personality words’, notably adjectives, selected from dictionaries. To test the explanatory power of the FFM as a model for individual differences in childhood, we used a different source for the lexicon of personality. Parents of children aged 3, 6, 9, and 12 years were asked simply ‘to describe your child’. The audiotaped interviews were transcribed literally and then coded using an elaborate coding scheme. We here describe data from three of the countries involved in this cross-cultural project (Holland, Belgium, and Greece). The data are the results of coding free descriptions for a total of 186 3-year-olds and 229 9-year-olds. These data represent the first phase of a four-phase project that includes researchers from The Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Poland, Germany, the USA, and China. Results from this first phase were very similar over the participating countries although there were some interesting culture-specific differences. In the second phase, questionnaire items based on the free descriptors in each category of the coding scheme will be written by the research teams. Such items will be rated by new samples of parents. Factor analyses will reduce the item pool to about one hundred items. These will then be given to new samples of parents of children of the ages indicated above. In the last phase, the factor structures will be compared across cultures and be analysed for their resemblance to the FFM, as well as other models of the structure of temperament and personality in childhood.