Development and Psychopathology

Research Article

Exuberant and inhibited toddlers: Stability of temperament and risk for problem behavior

Cynthia A. Stiftera1 c1, Samuel Putnama2 and Laudan Jahromia3

a1 Pennsylvania State University

a2 Bowdoin College

a3 University of California, Los Angeles


Temperament, effortful control, and problem behaviors at 4.5 years were assessed in 72 children classified as exuberant, inhibited, and low reactive as 2-year-olds. Exuberant toddlers were more positive, socially responsive to novel persons, less shy, and rated as having more problem behaviors, including externalizing and internalizing behaviors, than other children as preschoolers. Two forms of effortful control, the ability to delay a response and the ability to produce a subdominant response, were associated with fewer externalizing behaviors, whereas expressing more negative affect (relative to positive/neutral affect) when disappointed was related to more internalizing behaviors. Interaction effects implicated high levels of unregulated emotion during disappointment as a risk factor for problem behaviors in exuberant children.


This study was supported by a grant to the first author from the National Institutes of Mental Health (MH 50843). We thank the families who participated in the Emotional Beginnings Project.