Culture, temperament, and the "difficult child": A study in seven western cultures

Charles M. Super, Giovanna Axia, Sara Harkness, Barbara Welles-Nyström, Piotr Olaf Zylicz, Parminder Parmar, Sabrina Bonichini, Moisés Rios Bermúdez, Ughetta Moscardino, Violet Kolar, Jesús Palacios, Andrzej Eliasz, Harry McGurk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


This study explores parental ethnotheories of children’s temperament through mothers’ responses to McDevitt and Carey’s Behavioral Style Questionnaire (1978) for 299 children aged 3 to 8 years and interviews with their parents, in Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. We first established a standardized, "derived etic" version of the questionnaire with adequate reliability for 8 of the original 9 scales. Cross-cultural comparisons of the scales’ means showed generally similar perceptions of children’s behavior. However, intercorrelations of the mean ratings with each other and with global "difficulty," as presented through multidimensional scaling, showed both general tendencies and culture-specific patterns, which are further illustrated by parental discourse about "difficult" children in each sample. The findings underline the importance of parental ethnotheories for shaping the expression of temperament in development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-157
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Developmental Sciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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