Emilee Naylor's Summer Research Reflection
This summer I worked on a Psychology research project examining temperament in middle childhood with Jen Simonds. Jen is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Westminster College and received her Ph.D. in Development and Personality Psychology from the University of Oregon. To examine temperament, we used the Rothbart Temperament Model, which defines temperament as a biological basis for personality, involving behavioral, emotional, and motor responsiveness and reactivity, influenced by heredity and environment over time.
Beginning the summer with no research experience, my goal for my learning and studying included developing a hypothesis addressing affiliation, a small part of female temperament in middle childhood – one of seventeen dimensions associated with temperament. I posited that girls in middle childhood (ages 7-10) would have significantly higher scores on affiliation scales than boys. Affiliation can be defined as the propensity to enjoy close, personal and warm relationships with others. It is associated with the non-gregarious aspects of the Surgency/Extraversion core factor of temperament, although recent research conducted by Jen indicates there may be a fourth core factor of temperament: Sociability/ Affiliation. If this theory gains additional support, it is likely that affiliation will actually have more associations with this core factor of temperament in middle childhood.
Support for my question includes evidence of statistically significant higher female affiliation scores than male during adolescence (Ellis, 2002) and more affiliative tendencies in adulthood. I also learned about the role of the hormone oxytocin, a neuropeptide synthesized in the hypothalamus and secreted into the bloodstream through the posterior pituitary gland. Oxytocin plays a role in human sociability and bonding (as well as in other mammals), is released in the female brain during lactation (nursing), after orgasm, and while females conversationally assist others in times of stress. During adolescence and adulthood, oxytocin is found in the female brain in higher quantities than the male brain.
To measure temperament in middle childhood, we used the Temperament in Middle Childhood Questionnaire – TMCQ-C (Simonds & Rothbart, 2006). This questionnaire contains a set of affiliation scales, which I used to examine affiliation levels and scores in girls and boys in middle childhood. Contrary to my prediction, I learned that girls’ affiliation scores were not significantly different than boys’ during middle childhood. Discovering this presents me with new questions to explore during this next academic year. I would like to investigate whether imbalanced levels of oxytocin only begin to occur at the onset of puberty, and how this potential hormonal change, in combination with others (such as testosterone in males) influences affiliation between middle childhood and adolescence.