Gender Differences in Young Children's Temperament Traits: Comparisons Across Observational and Parent-Report Methods


  • This work was supported by NIMH K01-MH092603 (TMO), RO1-MH069942 (DNK), and GCRC Grant M01-RR10710 to Stony Brook University from the National Center for Research Resources.

Direct correspondence to Thomas M. Olino, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O'Hara St, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213. Email:


Evidence supporting the continuity between child temperament and adult personality traits is accumulating. One important indicator of continuity is the presence of reliable gender differences in traits across the lifespan. A substantial literature demonstrates gender differences on certain adult personality traits and recent meta-analytic work on child samples suggests similar gender differences for some broad and narrow domains of temperament. However, most existing studies of children rely only on parent-report measures. The present study investigated gender differences in temperament traits assessed by laboratory observation, maternal-report, and paternal-report measures. Across three independent samples, behavioral observations, maternal-report, and paternal-report measures of temperament were collected on 463 boys and 402 girls. Across all three methods, girls demonstrated higher positive affect and fear and lower activity level than boys. For laboratory measures, girls demonstrated higher levels of sociability and lower levels of overall negative emotionality (NE), sadness, anger and impulsivity than boys. However, girls demonstrated higher levels of overall NE and sadness than boys when measured by maternal reports. Finally, girls demonstrated lower levels of sociability based on paternal reports. Results are discussed in relation to past meta-analytic work and developmental implications of the findings.