Characteristics of Exuberance: Novelty-Seeking, Sociability or Emotion?

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Toste, Cindy Polak
Fox, Nathan
Current theories of temperament posit that individual differences in activity, reactivity, emotionality, sociability and self-regulation arise from biologically based systems and that these differences remain relatively stable over the lifespan (Goldsmith et al., 1987). One temperamental profile, Exuberance, has emerged from both conceptual and empirical work. Exuberance has been variously conceptualized in the extant temperament literature and has been associated with both positive and negative socio-emotional outcomes in children. In order to ascertain the impact of Exuberance on later adaptation, the first major goal of the current study was to identify its core features. The second major goal of the study was to examine the relations between Exuberance and later adaptation. Sixty toddlers and their caregivers participated in the study. At 24-months toddlers were invited to interact with a variety of novelty social and non-social stimuli and their caregivers were asked to complete the Toddler Behavior Assessment Questionnaire (TBAQ; Goldsmith, 1996). When the toddlers were 36-months old, caregivers were asked to complete the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL/1.5-5; Achenbach & Rescorla, 2000) and the Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Battery (ITSEA; Carter & Briggs-Gowan, 2003). Separate confirmatory factor analyses were used to examine the factor structure of Exuberance and Sociability and to examine the relations between Exuberance and behavioral inhibition. Findings supported an orthogonal two-factor of Sociability (i.e. quality of attachment to caregiver and sociability with an unfamiliar adult) and an orthogonal two-factor model of Exuberance (i.e. novelty-seeking and sociability with an unfamiliar adult). The current study also lent support for the distinctiveness of Exuberance (i.e. novelty-seeking and sociability with an unfamiliar adult) from behavioral inhibition. Also, little convergence between the scale items from the TBAQ and behavioral observations of Exuberance was found. Emotion regulation was found to predict both positive and negative adaptation and to mediate the relations between novelty-seeking and later positive and negative adaptation. Also, novelty-seeking predicted later externalizing problems. Taken together, these findings indicate the need for examining the unique facets of Exuberance in order to understand the impact of this temperamental profile on later social and emotional development.