Infant temperament

Infant temperament reflects early development of personality and behaviour. Research has shown that infant temperament characteristics precede later differences in behaviour and can be associated with neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions in childhood and adolescence1,2. Twin heritability for temperament has tended to be reported as between 30-40% (e.g., 3,4). Most of the past literature used the candidate gene design5,6.

Our aim for this project within the Genetics of Early Milestones and Skills (GEMS) study is to characterise the common genetic architecture underlying infant temperament. We will combine data from well-characterised cohorts to conduct meta-Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) for temperament domains in the first three years of age. We will conduct gene-based, fine mapping and functional annotation of the genome-wide results in order to understand the genetic pathways underlying early temperament and their role in physical and mental health.



  1. Willoughby, M. T., Gottfredson, N. C. & Stifter, C. A. Observed temperament from ages 6 to 36 months predicts parent- and teacher-reported attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms in first grade. Dev. Psychopathol. 29, 107–120 (2017).
  2. Kostyrka-Allchorne, K., Wass, S. V. & Sonuga-Barke, E. J. S. Research Review: Do parent ratings of infant negative emotionality and self-regulation predict psychopathology in childhood and adolescence? A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective longitudinal studies. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry Allied Discip. 61, 401–416 (2020).
  3. Goldsmith, H. H., Lemery, K. S., Buss, K. A. & Campos, J. J. Genetic analyses of focal aspects of infant temperament. Dev. Psychol. 35, 972–985 (1999).
  4. Gagne, J. R. & Goldsmith, H. H. A longitudinal analysis of anger and inhibitory control in twins from 12 to 36 months of age. Dev. Sci. 14, 112–124 (2011).
  5. Papageorgiou, K. A. & Ronald, A. The genetic basis of psychological traits in infancy. in The Wiley Handbook of Developmental Psychopathology 233–258 (Wiley Blackwell, 2017). doi:10.1002/9781118554470.ch11
  6. Papageorgiou, K. A. & Ronald, A. “He who sees things grow from the beginning will have the finest view of them” A systematic review of genetic studies on psychological traits in infancy. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 37, 1500–1517 (2013).



Lead analysts: Ms Anja Hollowell, Dr. Anna Gui

Lead PI: Prof. Angelica Ronald

Collaborators: Prof. Mark Johnson, Prof. Frank Dudbridge, Dr. Alexandra Havdahl, Prof. Iroise Dumontheil, the EAGLE consortium


UK Economic and Social Research Council


Links to hidden files (login to see the content)