12. Temperamental Profiles - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
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12. Temperamental Profiles

Therapist Resources > Therapy Books > Born That Way- Termperament Rel

Born that Way, Temperamental Challenges in Relationships and Therapy
by Ronald Mah

Certain combinations of temperament traits are considered difficult temperaments because an individual with such a set of temperament traits is more prone to negative interactions.  Difficult temperaments, particularly negative emotional reactivity, high activity, or low task orientation, may draw responses that maintain or increase negative reactions and further disorganize individual's behavior or disrupt thinking.  On the other hand, a child with positive temperamental characteristics gets better responses from peers and adults.  This child is considered more "teachable" because he or she is higher in task orientation and adaptability to changes.  These are attributes that are valued in the classroom (Bender, 1986), (Teglasi et al., 2004, page 15-16).  These attributes are arguably valued in many situations and many roles throughout maturation.

Examined for the child, they are intuitively and confirmed by research to be productive with partners in couples.  "…temperament is correlated with defense style, in particular with immature defenses… dimensions of temperament which assess Adaptability and Activity Level are strongly correlated with Immature defenses.  Low scores on the Adaptability subscale suggest trends towards avoidance, lack of flexibility and lack of positive affect, three characteristics often associated with the use of immature defenses.  High scores on the Activity subscale suggest trends towards physical activity, and while speculative, we propose that a possible explanation for this association is that youthful trends towards action and movement may foster avoidance and acting out as a way of dealing with conflicts in adulthood.  With the Mature defenses, only the Adaptability subscale is predictive, and in the opposite direction from the Immature defenses.  High scores on this subscale suggest trends towards engagement, flexibility and positive affect, qualities which are generally associated with the use of Mature defenses.  In the case of the Prosocial defenses, characteristics of persistence are correlated with altruism and reaction formation, defenses used to resolve conflicts through work and industry" (Shaw et al., 1996, page 110-11).

Positive or successful temperamental profiles contribute to more functional interactions with others and in life challenges.  Conversely, at some relative point, an extreme temperamental profile may be considered significantly dysfunctional to be considered psychopathology.  Lahey (2004, page 88) notes that symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder, which is a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders diagnosis may be also considered "oppositional temperament."  Variations in socioemotional behavior such as activity level and fearfulness within the normal range of individual behavior can be considered as temperament.  Variations at the extremes of the distribution such as hyperactivity and phobia for the same aspects of behavior can be seen as psychopathology.  The distinctions between temperament and personality, temperament and psychopathology, and personality and psychopathology are only academic unless they give guidance to accurate understanding and support of individuals.  Blum and Mehrabian (1999) offers a temperament model based on three scales with eight temperamental profiles.  Each scale has a negative and a positive polarity.  Four profiles are paired with four other profiles that suggest contrasting temperaments.  The PAD Temperament Model's three scales are:

1. Pleasure-Displeasure (generalized emotional predisposition towards positive vs. negative affective states),

2. Arousability (amplitude of arousal and delay in habituation of arousal in response to complex, changing, and unusual stimuli),

3. Dominance-Submissiveness (generalized emotional predisposition toward feeling in control of one's relationships and life circumstances vs. feeling controlled and influenced by others and external events).  (Blum and Mehrabian, page 1999, page 94).

Each of the three scales are dichotomized:

+P and –P (for pleasant and unpleasant temperament),

+A and –A (for arousable and unarousable temperament)

+D and –D (for dominant and submissive temperament

The following four major diagonals in PAD space illustrate some of the latter relations:

Exuberant (+P+A+D) versus Bored (-P-A-D)

Dependent (+P+A-D) versus Disdainful  (-P-A+D)

Relaxed (+P-A+D) versus Anxious  (-P+A-D)

Docile (+P-A-D) versus Hostile (-P+A+D)   

The eight profiles using these scales are:

Exuberant (+P+A+D) –extroverted, arousal or change seeker

Bored (-P-A-D) –schizoid, depressed

Dependent (+P+A-D) –succorant

Disdainful  (-P-A+D) –psychopathic

Relaxed (+P-A+D) –achiever, conscientious

Anxious  (-P+A-D) –neurotic, shy

Docile (+P-A-D)

Hostile (-P+A+D) –aggressive, violent, paranoid (Blum and Mehrabian, 1999, page 94-95)

Each profile suggests lesser or greater functionality depending on the individual's circumstances and role.  Blum and Mehrabian found that lower neuroticism (+P-A+D, considered the Relaxed profile) predicted greater marital satisfaction (page 97).  Studies using the PAD Temperament Model identified traits that correlated to marital experiences.  "Grayson (1980) used Gough's (1960) Adjective Check List and found the following relations with marital satisfaction for married or cohabitating middle-class White couples.  For husbands, higher Achievement (+P+D), Dominance (+D), Endurance (+D), and Change (+D) and lower Succorance (-P-A+D) related to greater satisfaction; for wives, higher Nurturance (+P+D), Affiliation (+P+A), and Deference (-D), and lower Self-Confidence (-D), Autonomy (-D), and Aggression (+P-A-D) related to greater satisfaction.  Findings by Eidelson (1983) were related to the latter and showed that Affiliation (+P+A) of either mate was associated with fewer problems in marriages; also, Autonomy (+D) of either mate related to fewer problems" (Blum and Mehrabian, 1999, page 98).  "Luckey's (1964) findings with the Interpersonal Check List showed that pleasant and interpersonally positive (+P+A), pleasant and dominant (+P+D), and pleasant and submissive (+P-D) individuals had more satisfied mates.  Corroborating findings by Antill (1983), Luckey showed that both husbands' and wives' "femininity" was a positive correlate of marital satisfaction.  "Femininity" was defined as being cheerful, affectionate, loyal, sympathetic, understanding, compassionate, warm tender, and gentle, and thus included the primary pleasant temperament (+P) characteristics.  Similarly, Pickford, Signori, and Rempel (1967) found that thoughtfulness (+P) of wives was associated with lower risk of separation in troubled marriages". (Blum and Mehrabian, 1999, page 99).

Ha et al., (2007) provides another model that uses four dimensions to classify twelve personality disorders in the DSM-IV system.  "Each of the temperaments have been relatively stable, moderately heritable, normally distributed, independent of each other and universal across the ethnic and cultural differences" (Ha et al., 2007, page 60).  The four dimensions are:

HA- high in Harm Avoidance, which reflects cautious, fearful, pessimistic, and shy;

NS- high in Novelty Seeking, which reflects quick tempered, curious, and exploration;

RD- high in Reward Dependence, which reflects tender-hearted, warm, sensitive, and sociable;

P- high in Persistence, which reflects industrious, persistent and stable despite frustration.

"By correlation between four temperaments and 12 personality disorders, each personality disorder symptom was successfully classified through their clustering in the DSM-IV system.  In each individual personality disorder symptom, higher NS in paranoid personality, higher HA in borderline personality, lower RD in antisocial personality, lower P in avoidant and dependent personality and higher P in obsessive-compulsive personality were unique features.  Each unique prominent temperament factor can be used to explain the core biogenetic influence in developing personality disorder symptoms.  TCI can be used as a diagnostic or screening instrument for personality disorder symptoms at least at the cluster level and sometimes even in individual personality categories… Strong relationships were observed between major defense style and temperament traits.  Subjects with cluster A personality disorders are usually poor in interpersonal relationship, use defenses such as projection, and fantasy formation.  Lower reward dependence suggests that their poor interpersonal relationship may be derived from biogenetic trait.  Subjects with cluster B personality disorders are emotional unstable, impulsive in their behavior, and usually use defenses such as splitting, acting out, and dissociation.  High NS explains their impulsivity and explorative attitudes.  Subjects with cluster C personality disorders are tense and anxious, and usually use defenses such as hypochondriasis and passive aggression.  High HA shows their attitudes originate from innate traits not from environmental influences" (Ha et al., 2007, page 64).

Ha's examination of personality disorders in reference to four temperamental dimensions can also be useful for the therapist to assess individuals who do not have the disorders.  Personality disorders are extreme characterological versions of the normal spectrum of human emotional, psychological, and cognitive compensation to attachment, developmental, and social challenges.  Tendencies towards personality disorders may not qualify for diagnosis of a disorder, but be illuminated by Ha's model.  The studies that identify specific traits and various temperamental profiles that harm interactions and relationships offer potential guidance for intervention and growth.  Pleasant as opposed to unpleasant temperament, positive versus negative arousability, dominant versus submissive temperament, or avoidance, novelty seeking, reward dependence, and persistence can be targeted for reducing unproductive consequences and for increasing functional results in individuals and couple's development.  The therapist can examine how each trait or profile may have contributed to overall emotional and psychological development; or how they may have accentuated and exacerbated positive versus negative development.

3056 Castro Valley Blvd., #82
Castro Valley, CA 94546
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
office: (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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