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Dimensionality of the Temperament in Spanish Children: Negative Affectivity, Effortful Control, and Extraversion.

Byline: Paloma Gonzalez-PeAa, Juan-Diego Paredes-Gazquez, Miguel A. Carrasco and Francisco P. Holgado-Tello

This article analyzes the structure and reliability of the Children's Behavior Questionnaire (CBQ; Rothbart, Ahadi, Hersey, and Fisher, 2001) in Spanish on children from 3 to 8 years old (N = 424). The CBQ is a caregiver report measure designed to provide a detailed assessment of children's temperament based on three central constructs of temperament such as emotional reactivity, arousability and self-regulation. Exploratory factor analysis of CBQ scales recovered a four-factor solution, as we expected, including three broad dimensions (Negative affectivity, Effortful control, and Extraversion) and unexpectedly two facets for the broad dimension of Extraversion (Extraversion / activation, and Extraversion / inhibition). According to confirmatory factors analysis, the two extraversion factors were grouped into a general second order factor of Extraversion. The final factor solution was consistent with previous studies.

The CBQ scales demonstrate adequate internal consistency. Similarities and differences between the Spanish structure of CBQ and American factorial solution are discussed.

Keywords: children, temperament, Children's Behavior Questionnaire-Spanish version

Paloma Gonzalez-PeAa, PhD, Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia (UNED), C/ Juan del Rosal, 10, 28040 Madrid, Spain Juan-Diego Paredes-Gazquez, PhD, Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia (UNED), C/ Juan del Rosal, 10, 28040 Madrid, Spain Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Professor Miguel A. Carrasco, PhD, Facultad de Psicologia, Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia (UNED), C/ Juan del Rosal, 10, 28040 Madrid, Spain. Email: Francisco P. Holgado-Tello, PhD, Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia (UNED), C/ Juan del Rosal, 10, 28040 Madrid, Spain (Shiner, 2000), empathy (Eisenberg, Spinrad, and Sadovsky, 2006), and psychopathology (Watson, Kotov, and Gamez, 2006) among others. Thus, it is important to have available validating measures that clearly demarcate the essential components of temperament and allow for valid and reliable inferences.

Historically, researchers have proposed various models regarding the structure of temperament in children (Martin, Winsenbaker, and Huttunen, 1994; Rothbart, 2011; Rothbart and Mauro, 1990). Among these models, three fundamental approaches stand out. The first model is a proposal by Thomas and Chess, who, in the New York Longitudinal Study (NYL; Thomas and Chess, 1977), identified nine dimensions of temperament based on their interviews with mothers of children aged 2 to 6 months. The nine dimensions are activity level, mood, approach/withdrawal, intensity, sensory threshold, rhythmicity, distractibility, attention/persistence, and adaptability. The second is by Buss and Plomin (1975, 1984), who proposed three basic characteristics of temperament: emotionality, activity, and sociability (EAS). These characteristics are observed at the beginning of life and can be attributed to heredity.

The third is a proposal presented by Rothbart and colleagues (Capaldi and Rothbart, 1992; Derryberry and Rothbart, 1997; Rothbart, et al., 2001) based on Fiske's three constructs of temperament (1966, 1971): emotional reactivity, arousability, and self-regulation. To our knowledge, there has not been validation in the Spanish culture for these structures of temperament. Therefore, there are not conclusive remarks about the suitability of these models in the Spanish culture. The CBQ measures the temperament of children aged 3 to 7 years. The instrument is completed by the children's parents or regular caregivers. The supporting scales that constitute the CBQ were based on Fiske's theoretical constructs mentioned above.

In their notion of temperament, Rothbart and colleagues diverged from previous theoretical proposals by considering individual differences in self-regulation and the role of executive control (Posner and Rothbart, 1998; Rothbart, 1981, 1989; Rothbart, Ahadi, and Evans, 2000; Ruff and Rothbart, 1996). Previous studies analyzing the structure of the CBQ in America (Ahadi, Rothbart, and Ye, 1993; DeThorne, Deater-Deckard, Mahurin-Smith, Coletto, and Petrill, 2011; Goldsmith, Buss, and Lemery, 1997; Kochanska, De Vet, Goldman, and Murray, 1994; Putman and Rothbart, 2006; Rothbart et al., 2001), Chinese (Ahadi et al., 1993), Japan (Kusanagi, 1993) and Netherlands (Sleddens, Kremer, De Vries, and Thijs, 2013) populations have revealed three first-order categories among the basic, theoretically established dimensions: surgency/extraversion, negative affectivity, and effortful control.

The first factor, surgency, includes the scales for positive anticipation, laughter/smiling, impulsivity, high-intensity pleasure (search for sensation), and activity level with a negative rating for shyness. Surgency refers to the tendency to direct behavior toward potential rewards, to express positive emotions, and to show a high level of activity. This construct is very similar to and positively associated with the factor of extraversion in personality trait theories (Evans and Rothbart, 2007). The second factor, negative affectivity, resembles the personality trait of neuroticism (Rothbart, 2007) and refers to the predisposition to respond with negative emotions (fear, anger or frustration, discomfort, sadness) combined with a difficulty with self- soothing.

Finally, the third factor, effortful control, involves inhibitory control (the ability to inhibit an inappropriate behavior), attentional focusing, low-intensity pleasure (the ability to derive pleasure from low- intensity stimuli), and perceptual sensitivity. For certain samples, the approach and laughter/smiling scales did not always load on the first factor, with high factor loadings (greater than .25) on all three factors (Ahadi et al., 1993; Rothbart et al., 2001).

It is important to note that this three-factor structure was developed based on exploratory factor analyses but did not demonstrate adequate levels of fit in subsequent confirmatory factor analyses (Putnam, Ellis, and Rothbart, 2001; Rothbart et al., 2001). One exception to this discrepancy is the abbreviated version of the CBQ (Putnam and Rothbart, 2006), which excludes several of the former scales (e.g., positive anticipation, smiling, attentional shift) to facilitate the achievement of adequate fit with the three-factor model. This observation shows the need to explore alternative structures that are compatible with a widely supported exploratory factor structure on a confirmatory level.

The main purpose of this study is to analyze the structure and basic psychometric properties of the CBQ through exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses based on a sample of Spanish children aged 3 to 7 years. By enabling the valid measurement of children's temperament in the Spanish population, this analysis will make it possible to compare results across different countries and develop appropriate inferences based on such comparisons. The structure of CBQ in Spanish children needs to be studied in order to know the cross- cultural similarities and differences of temperament. It also will allow us to use a valid structure originally obtained from the same sample in which the measure is going to be applied.



The participants were 424 children (60% boys and 40% girls) age ranged from 36 to 77 months (M = 51.78, SD = 11.26). The mean ages of girls and boys were 50.47 (SD = 11.24) and 52.56 (SD = 11.18), respectively. All of the children were attending school, with the majority living in two-parent households (85%) and representing the middle socioeconomic level according to the Hollingshead scale (1975). The pre- schools were randomly selected from all community of Madrid public schools and publically funded private schools that offered the first and second levels of early childhood education (from 4 months to 7 years).

Assessment Measures

The CBQ (Rothbart et al., 2001), translated into Spanish by Gonzalez, Fuentes, Carranza, and EstACopyrightvez (2001), is designed for children between 3 and 8 years of age. The instrument contains 195 items that address children's behaviors in the context of everyday situations, such as play and caregiving. Responses are recorded on Likert-type scales with seven response options corresponding to the frequency of each behavior in the previous week (Options ranged from 1 = never" to 7 = always." The option X = does not apply" can be selected if the situation described in the question did not occur during the time-period being evaluated). The questionnaire addresses 16 temperamental dimensions as described below.

Sadness measures the frequency of negative affect, low mood, and low energy related to material loss or suffering (12 items; e.g., Tends to feel sad at the end of a rough day"; a = .77). Anger/Frustration evaluates the frequency of these emotions related to the interruption of ongoing tasks or the achievement of a goal (13 items; e.g., Has temper tantrums when he/she doesn't get what he/she wants"; a = .76). Soothability refers to the rate of recovery from a maximum peak in distress, excitement, or general arousal (13 items; e.g., Calms down quickly following an exciting event"; a = .80). Discomfort measures the negative affect related to sensory qualities of stimulation including intensity, rate, or complexity of light, movement, sound, and texture (12 items; e.g., Feels very uncomfortable when wet or cold"; a = .74).

Fear evaluates negative affect, such as unease, worry, or nervousness, associated with the anticipation of pain, distress, and/or potentially threatening situations (12 items; e.g., Is afraid of thieves and the bogeyman; a = .69). Attentional Shifting measures the ability of a child to change his/her focus of interest (13 items; e.g., Easily switches from one activity to another"; a = .76). Inhibitory Control measures the ability to plan and suppress inappropriate approach responses when instructed or in new or uncertain situations (13 items; e.g., Prepares for trips and outings by planning the things he/she will need"; a = .74). Attentional Focusing measures the tendency to focus one's attention on tasks (9 items; e.g., When picking up toys or performing another task, he/she normally continues until the activity is finished"; a = .74). Impulsivity refers to the speed of response initiation (13 items; e.g., Sometimes interrupts others when they are talking"; a = .78).

High-intensity Pleasure measures the amount of pleasure or enjoyment related to situations involving high stimulus intensity, the rate, complexity, novelty, and incongruity (13 items; e.g., Likes to play so wildly and dangerously that he/she could get hurt"; a = .79). Activity Level measures the level of gross motor activity, including the rate and scope of locomotion (13 items; e.g., Tends to run instead of walk when going from one room to another"; a = .81). Positive anticipation measures the amount of positive anticipation and excitement for expected pleasurable activities (13 items; e.g., When he/she sees a toy he/she wants, he/she gets very excited about getting it"; a = .76). Shyness measures the slow or inhibited approach in novel or uncertain situations (13 items; e.g., Gets embarrassed when strangers pay a lot of attention to him/her"; a = .94).

Laughter/Smiling is the frequency of positive affect in response to changes in stimulus intensity, rate, complexity, and incongruity (13 items; e.g., Laughs a lot at jokes and ridiculous things"; a = .79). Perceptual Sensitivity measures a child's tendency to detect slight or low-intensity stimuli from the external environment (12 items; e.g., Notices when parents wear new clothes"; a = .77). Low-intensity Pleasure measures the amount of pleasure or enjoyment experienced in situations involving low stimulus intensity, rate, complexity, novelty, and incongruity (13 items; e.g., He/she likes to sit quietly in the sun"; a = .70). This instrument has been used previously with the Spanish population for the study of children's temperaments (Gonzalez et al., 2001).


To recruit participants for this study, a random selection of 12 pre-schools was requested from the Community of Madrid Office of Education. We received authorization from the administration and the school boards of 11 institutions. Participation of each child in the study was voluntary and contingent on the informed consent of his or her parents. The mother of each participating child was asked to complete the CBQ. The completed forms were returned to the researchers for correction and analysis. At the end of the study, parents received feedback regarding the temperament of their children.


A CFA was performed based on the internal structure proposed by Rothbart et al. (2001). The universal goodness of fit indices were: 2 (g.l. = 87; p = .001) = 825.45; RMSEA= .15, with an interval of 90% ranging between .14 and .16; GFI= .78; AGFI= .70.

The results obtained refute the null hypothesis. In other words, the factor structure derived from our sample did not align with the model proposed by Rothbart et al. (2001). Based on this result, the structure of the instrument in our sample was further analyzed using EFA and CFA.

Exploratory Factor Analysis. For the EFA, principal components analysis with an oblique rotation (promax) was used as the extraction method. Taking into account the original structure (Rothbart et al., 2001); the scree plot, and the Kaiser (1958) criterion four factors were extracted. Table 1 includes the structure matrix and the correlations between factors, with minor factor saturations being suppressed to .30. The EFA was conducted on a subsample randomly composed of 212 children (sample A).

The eigenvalue of factor one was 4.08, while the percentage of variance explained was 25.52%. All the subscales of the Negative affectivity factor proposed by Rothbart et al. (2001), as well as shyness, coincide in one single factor, which we refer to as Negative Affectivity in accordance with Rothbart (2007). For factor two, the final eigenvalue and the percentage of the variance explained were 2.70 and 16.85%, respectively.

Table 1 Structure Matrix








Attentional Shifting###-.57###.42###-.30###.11

Inhibitory Control###-.27###.86###-.43###.16

Attentional Focusing###-.13###.79###-.15###.10


High-intensity Pleasure###.03###-.09###.75###.03

Activity Level###.24###-.69###.74###-.00

Positive Anticipation###.50###-.47###.52###.42



Perceptual Sensitivity###-.08###.23###-.05###.65

Low-intensity Pleasure###-.24###.55###-.21###.61

Effortful Control###-.31###1

E. Activation###.14###-.52###1

E. Inhibition###-.06###.07###.16###1

With a structure similar to Effortful control proposed by Rothbart et al. (2001), factor two is also labeled Effortful control in this study. Note, however, that this factor contains a larger number of items given that we did not exclude items related to attentional shifting, as did the Rothbart group. In addition, the value on the activity subscale was more relevant (-.69) to our data than to the data in Rothbart's study (-.13). Finally, factors three and four yielded eigenvalues of 2.09 and 1.04, respectively, with 13.04% and 6.50% of the variance explained. These two factors contain the scales that carry the most weight in the surgency/extraversion factor proposed by Rothbart et al. (2001). The scales impulsivity, search for high stimulation, and approach (activity, high-intensity pleasure, less shyness) loaded most heavily on the third factor, hereby labeled as extraversion/activation.

In factor four, labeled here as extraversion/inhibition, the scales search for low stimulation and positive affect (low-intensity pleasure, perceptual sensitivity, laughter/smiling) loaded most heavily on the fourth factor, which was also influenced by lower positive anticipation and lower disinhibition (more shyness) albeit to a lesser extent. In comparison, the laughter/smiling subscale carried more weight (.80) in this study than was demonstrated in the structure identified by Rothbart (.35). A non- significant value was obtained for the factor of effortful control, in contrast, to the value reported by Rothbart (.72).

Regarding the correlations between factors, a strong negative relationship was observed between effortful control and extraversion / activation.

Confirmatory Factor Analysis. Having established construct validity of the CBQ via an exploratory factor analysis, we further analyzed the structure of the instrument via a confirmatory factor analysis based on a subsample B composed of 212 children, randomly obtained. The model specification and the criteria derived from the EFA followed the theoretical criteria established by Rothbart et al. (2001).

Table 2 Model 1 Completely Standardized Solution



Activity Level###-.41###.50


Positive Anticipation###-.49###.35###.44

Attentional Focusing###.50

Attentional Shifting###.58











Perceptual Sensitivity###.51




Effortful Control###-.57###1

E. Activation###.15###-.41###1

E. Inhibition###-.01###.29###.86###1

The confirmatory factor analysis measured the correspondence between the four-factor structure and the findings of the exploratory factor analysis and, thus, consisted of the same essential and fundamental content. This model is referred to as Model 1.

Table 2 shows the structure, standardized solution, and bivariate correlations among factors of Model 1. The following universal goodness of fit indices were obtained: 2 (g.l. = 93; p= .001) = 298.48; RMSEA= .11 with an interval of 90% ranging between .89 and .12; GFI= .93; and AGFI= .89.

Although Model 1 was acceptable from both a theoretical and statistical point of view, our goal was to replicate the structure proposed by Rothbart et al. (2001) as much as possible. Therefore, we evaluated the viability of a second model that combined the factors etraversion/activation and extraversion/inhibition into a single second- order factor extraversion.

Table 3 Model 2 Completely Standardized Solutions

###Measurement model

###Negative###Effortful Extraversion/###Extraversion/


Activity Level###-.41###.50


Positive anticipation###-.49###.35###.44

Attentional Focusing###.50

Attentional Shifting###.58







Inhibitory Control###.74



Perceptual Sensitivity###.51




###Structural Model


E. Activation###.28

E. Inhibition###.83

The goodness of fit indices for Model 2 are: 2 (g.l. = 91; p= .001) = 245.44; RMSEA= .08 with an interval of 90% ranging between .07 and .09; GFI= .93; and AGFI= .90. These results provide empirical support for the structure. The completely standardized solution of the measurement and structural models are shown in Table 3.

Basic psychometric characteristics. Table 4 shows the basic psychometric properties of Model 2, which presents extraversion as a second-order factor that combines the two first-order factors Extraversion/activation and Extraversion/inhibition.

Table 4 Basic Psychometric Properties of Model 2

###Negative Effortful###Extraversion/ Extraversion/


###Affectivity Control###Activation###Inhibition




M Discrepancy###.30###.31###.29###.24###.22

The internal consistency coefficients, as measured by Cronbach's alpha, varied between .78 (extraversion/inhibition) and .90 (effortful control). The average discrepancy varied between the .22 and .31.


Our analysis of the structure of the CBQ based on a sample of Spanish children demonstrates a f actor structure that is psychometrically valid and conceptually equivalent to the one identified by previous studies in other cultures (Ahadi et al., 1993; Goldsmith et al., 1997; Gonzalez et al., 2001 ; Gonzalez-PeAa, Carrasco, Gordillo, Del Barrio, and Holgado, 2011;; Kochanska et al., 1994; Putman and Rothbart, 2006; Roberts, Tonnsen, Robinson, McQuillin, and Hatton, 2014; Rothbart et al., 2001). Nevertheless, the present findings also reveal a different internal structure such that two of the identified factors, Extraversion/activation and Extraversion/inhibition, are grouped as components of a global second-order factor, extraversion. This new structure has been supported in both exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses.

In line with the exploratory factor analysis, four factors emerged: Negative affectivity, Effortful control, Extraversion/activation, and Extraversion/inhibition. Negative affectivity refers to a child becoming upset in reaction to unpleasant events. Effortful control refers to a child's ability to exercise control over a certain action, inhibit a dominant response (inhibitory control), detect errors, and participate in planning an action. Both Negative affectivity and Effortful control are clearly parallel and conceptually identical to the factors identified by Rothbart and colleagues (Rothbart et al., 2001; Rothbart and Bates, 2006; Rothbart and Rueda, 2005).

Factors 3 (extraversion/activation) and 4 (extraversion/inhibition) measure a child's tendency towards stimulation, novelty, impulsivity, activity, dominance, and positive affect. These factors coincide with the traditional construct of extraversion (Eysenck, 1967; Rothbart, 2007). Nevertheless, in this study, confirmatory factor analysis revealed that better fit was achieved when the two first-order factors were combined as the global second-order dimension of extraversion. The Extraversion/activation factor corresponds to the behavioral components of extraversion, surgency, and activation (impulsivity, high-intensity pleasure or search for stimulation, and activity). The Extraversion/inhibition factor corresponds to positive affect, low-intensity pleasure, and perceptual sensitivity. The tendencies of approach, disinhibition, and negative affect correspond more closely to extraversion/activation than to extraversion/inhibition.

Although this distinction was not found by Rothbart and colleagues, other proponents of traditional models in the field of personality and individual differences have noted the distinction between the different facets of extraversion (e.g., Costa and McCrae, 1992; Eysenck, Easting, and Pearson, 1984; Eysenck and Eysenck, 1985), components of activation and behavioral inhibition (Gray, 1972), and approach-inhibition (Berlyne, 1971; Davidson, 2003; Schneirla, 1959). In this way, without straying from the basic structure proposed by Rothbart, the structure that we have identified within the factor of extraversion provides greater conceptual depth. In particular, incorporating contributions from previous models enable the achievement of better construct validity and explanatory power.

The components of extraversion, such as impulsivity and search for stimulation, are more powerfully linked to the development of externalizing problems (Carrasco, Barker, Tremblay, and Vitaro, 2006; Center, Jackson, and Kemp, 2005; Hughes and Shewchuk, 2012; Sledden et al, 2013) than are the components of positive affect or perceptual sensitivity, which are more closely related to the attenuation of internalizing problems (Jorm et al., 2000; Lengua, West, and Sandler, 1998).

The absence of this distinction in Rothbart et al. (2001)'s model may explain the poor model fit in confirmatory factor analyses and the authors' exclusion of the Positive Anticipation and Laughter/Smiling Scale when they later developed the abbreviated version of the CBQ (Putnam and Rothbart, 2006).

Despite the substantial empirical and conceptual similarity between the structure obtained in this study and the structure proposed by Rothbart et al. (2001), it is pertinent to emphasize how the Spanish CBQ diverges from the original version for English-speaking American populations. First, the Spanish version includes items that correspond to the Attentional Shifting subscale in the analysis. These items were originally included in the English instrument but subsequently excluded, due to being highly correlated with the Attention Subscale. However, despite this high correlation (Posner and Petersen, 1990; Rothbart and Sheese, 2007), we believe that the two subscales reflect distinct components of the attentional process and, as demonstrated in this study, load onto different dimensions. Attentional shifting (in its negative connotation) corresponds to a self-regulatory function linked to negative affect or emotional regulation.

In other words, difficulty with attentional shift contributes, in part, to a child's tendency towards negative affect, whereas persistent attention is strictly associated with general self- regulatory function (self-control). This finding is supported by studies that have found an association between neuroticism (negative affect) and a difficulty in shifting attention from sources of aversive stimuli (Derryberry and Reed, 1994, 2002). In contrast, persistent attention is more clearly implicated in solving Stroop problems (Kanske, 2008; Whittle, 2007). Another key difference relates to the saturation of the Laughter/Smiling Subscale. In the Rothbart et al. (2001) study, this scale saturated the effortful control dimension. In our study, the scale forms part of the extraversion dimension. It is clear based on the conceptualization of the extraversion dimension (Rothbart, 2007) that these subscales are fundamental elements of extraversion as opposed to Effortful control.

Therefore, our factor solution is more consistent with the theory in practice and lends support to dividing the factor of Extraversion on the CBQ into two first-order factors. This division in our data also contributed to a clearer demarcation of the Positive Anticipation Subscale in the factor of extraversion, which, in the American version, appeared more relevant to negative affectivity despite being a component of extraversion. Finally, the Perceptual Sensitivity and Low-Intensity Pleasure Subscales were grouped under the Extraversion/inhibition factor instead of the Effortful control factor, as would be expected according to the Rothbart et al. (2001) model. This difference may explain how the proposed dimensional model displaces control variables bound to positive affect from the factor of Effortful control to the factor of Extraversion/inhibition. Nevertheless, both scales, but in particular Low- Intensity Pleasure, were important to effortful control and demonstrate the consistency of our data.

In terms of reliability, all of the scales demonstrated adequate internal consistency, with the majority of values being close to or greater than .80.

In terms of the limitations of this study, we acknowledge the absence of test-retest measures to estimate the stability of the measures and the evolution of the dimensions over time. Future research with children should attempt to address these aspects. In addition, our analyses were based solely on information provided by mothers without comparisons with naturalistic observation measures, especially for those items that are inherently less apparent (e.g., items related to discomfort and sadness). However, the evaluation of temperament using the CBQ has demonstrated good reliability and tends to be highly correlated with parallel measures obtained in the laboratory (Rothbart, Derryberry, and Hershey, 2000).

In conclusion, this analysis of the structure of the Spanish CBQ reveals a comprehensive structure of temperament based on the characteristics of reactivity and self-regulation, which is consistent with previous studies. The high reliability and fundamental consistency of the scales indicate good construct validity.


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Publication:Journal of Behavioural Sciences
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Jun 30, 2015
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