What is the Difference Between Temperament and Personality?

Here’s the first part of :

written by ME πŸ™‚

(It’s due out in the next few weeks. So exciting!!)

Temperament is part of our personality. When we combine the effects of the in-utero environment during pregnancy and the birth experience on our genes we arrive with temperament.

Genes + In-Utero Environment + Birth Experience = Temperament

The behaviours our bodies are compelled to display during times of stress (not trauma or life-threatening danger) are due to our temperament, and are most obvious in babies and small children. Over the course of our life-time temperament can be modified, but not changed. Modifications to our temperament are reflected in our personality.


Nature versus Nurture


How Nurture modifies or enhances Nature

No temperament is better or worse than another: they are merely different. For a simple analogy we can think of the temperaments as different sets of building blocks. Every box might contain blocks of varying sizes or shapes, but all can be made into solid and weather-tight houses – if they are properly constructed. Likewise temperament: regardless of our temperament we can grow up to be self-assured and calm, to manage risk and to be self-motivated, we can behave maturely – or not, depending on our experiences and our ability to process and understand those experiences.

Sometimes, people drive us crazy because their temperaments are different from our own. It is common to attribute certain behaviours to flaws in character, which are actually normal and uncontrollable biological reactions based in temperament.

Sometimes we see behaviours in another, which reflect our own internal state or temperament. If we learned these behaviours were unacceptable or undesirable then, too, we may find the other person irritating.



About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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14 Responses to What is the Difference Between Temperament and Personality?

  1. Look, I just love your blog! I love the way that you write. This is an incredibly fascinating topic: something that could be very difficult to explain but you explain really well. It is simplified, but not dumbed down. I wish the post didn’t just stop there – I wanted to keep reading…

    I look forward to your book (don’t undercharge for it either).

    • Thanks. Phew. Perfect feedback, strokes my ego just the right way. Would you like to be my new BFF? πŸ™‚

      Pricing is tricky, it will be reasonably cheap as it’s pretty short as far as books go and I want as many people as possible to be able to access it. Thinking around $6.50 (US) at the moment. (That’s around four pound sterling, five euros or $8 NZ)) The tantrum book will be more because it hurts my head more to write it. Whaddaya reckon?

  2. Elena says:

    I’ve read it twice and I’m finding it hard to give feedback without knowing what else you’re going to give us, because there are so many interesting questions raised, like, why does in-utero and birth experience have such a lasting effect on temperament? Are there certain types of temperament, or just lots of different ones just like every person is different? HOW can we modify our temperament to have a better reaction to stress, if we think that we are a whiny, easily overwhelmed blob when faced with a challenge (speaking for myself! πŸ˜€ )

    I guess my overall feedback is, this excerpt is fascinating and engaging and I want more! πŸ™‚

    • Great. I wanted it to be a lure. Tee Hee! There is a bit about how to modify your children’s temperaments in there, but it’s more about understanding temperament. This is part of a series, so the how to modify temperament and change personality will be threaded through all the books – the tantrum one certainly has some good strategies. I did it this way because the information I have in my head is so huge that I didn’t want people to be overwhelmed and just cry.

  3. thirdeyemom says:

    Karyn: Where did you learn so much for your book? Did you have to do a lot of research? I bet you are so excited for it to come out! Is it your first published book? How long did it take you?

    • Hi Nicole,
      Seven years ago I started asking far too many WHY questions and found all this really cool stuff about people that we aren’t told or isn’t in general circulation anyway. Much of it made me angry – not the information but the degree of mis-information. Basically every problem we have in humanity is pretty much preventable and easily preventable. But there are some pretty big paradigm shifts to be made. I am drip feeding information through a series of books over the next four or five years. And yes this one is the first and it is very exciting!!

  4. I love this! You are able to say things I think in my head but have such a hard time expressing. And I love how you talk about the science. Can’t wait for more!

  5. chattywren says:

    Hmm, fascinating I say. My elder one (now a 5 yr old) was a colicky baby – I was in a stressful job when expecting and we were relocating to another country. I had my baby there and my mom who had come to help me out said she is like this because you were pretty stressed out all the time. Even today she can be difficult and unpredicatable (my husband says a lot like me:)). My younger one thankfully is more easy going, though I flew back home in the last month for her birth. Will look out for your book!

    • We had one of those colicky stressed babies too, and they can be tricky to manage. Pleased your second is a little more easy going. Great that you’re looking out for the book. I am hoping it’s not too far away now. πŸ™‚

  6. Hi! I just read this whole Why People Drive You Crazy book after reading your interview at Geekmom (the Tantrum book is on my wishlist. Actually I need it now but I can’t afford it and none of my libraries have it, so… on my wishlist although that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to wait until somebody buys it for me for Christmas!). Loved it– absolutely cracked up reading “If you’re a Hare with Tortoises” because it was SO dead on a description of my mother-in-law’s and my relationship –considered sending it to her because I wanted to say “See? Whenever I outright disagree with you it’s because I’M RIGHT!” πŸ˜€ *AHEM* Anyhoo, I’ve been sitting here all bemused and curious now, though, because when I first read the part of it being a sort of punnet square between introvert/extrovert and highly-sensitive/not-so-sensitive, I immediately figured I’d fit the Highly-Sensitive Introvert type. Instead I am absolutely dead on a Tortoise in every way. I identify with Owls because I’m a geek and a nerd, but really the ONLY trait of theirs that isn’t already a trait of Tortoises by way of introversion that I exhibit is… I’m, uh, highly sensitive. But then again, not across the BOARD! I’m mostly EMOTIONALLY highly sensitive, and physically my HEARING is highly sensitive (though not, admittedly, my listening), and my sense of touch in some areas (I won’t wear jewelry because it bugs me, I always hated getting my face painted, and I itch easily) but not all (I once had a hyperactive doctor, examining me for an ear infection, exclaim cheerfully, “You must have a very high tolerance for PAIN!”). Okay, I’m rambling too much (notably, this wouldn’t happen if I was speaking aloud). The really interesting thing is that I WASN’T all that tortoisey as a small child, though! I was a colicky baby and I was terrified of EVERYTHING until I was about a preteen (and SO prone to tears). It seems like my tortoisey traits are almost more like a coping mechanism that developed to deal with my sensitivity. (But it IS how I act in times of stress and crisis, which means it’s inborn temperament, right?) Are you familiar with the Enneagram Personality theories? In that system, uh, sorting, whatever, Enneagram Type 9 is pretty much identical in description to your tortoise (and, naturally, I come out as Type 9 in any such tests). But the Enneagram theories focus much more on how the personality actually develops on top of the temperament– how you ARE born with a certain temperament that will affect which way your personality will go, but most of it IS personality that gets built over time– so my Tortoiseness-as-Coping-Mechanism kind of fits more. Actually I’m not sure where I’m going with this, it just seemed interesting to discuss. Thanks!

    • Wow! Whst an awesome comment! I so love your enthusiasm!!!!

      Yeah we take on characteristics of different temperameents to cope with life and the universe; I have realised that I am naturally more Owl like than I had ever been led to believe and developed some pretty efficient Butterfly/Hare traits in order to cope with life. In fact, I pretty much had a meltdown after I wrote ‘Why People Drive You Crazy’ because my whole life seemed to have been a lie…Now I just know I need quiet time and time alone and short bursts of socialising. Anyway, so, so pleased that you liked it!! I am looking at kindle-ing the tantrum book over the next couple of months if that is of any use to you/

      I haven’t heardn’t looked into Ennegram Personality theories but it sounds as if they are the sort of thing I’d be really interested in reading about. Thanks for mentioning it, and please do come again!!! πŸ˜€

  7. Rebecca says:

    You do understand that modifying something is changing it? It seems that from your blog post you don’t understand that.

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