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12-12-2017 | Original Paper | Uitgave 5/2018

Journal of Child and Family Studies 5/2018

Relations between Temperament and False Belief Understanding in the Preschool Age

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 5/2018
Giulia Pecora, Elsa Addessi, Melania Paoletti, Francesca Bellagamba


Emerging evidence suggests that Theory of Mind (ToM) is related to some aspects of children's temperament. Specifically, recent studies have shown that false belief understanding is positively related to shyness and withdrawn behavior and negatively associated with aggressive conduct. However, still little is known about which other aspects of temperament are related to children's ability to understand others' mental states. In the present study, we aimed to investigate relations between false belief understanding and temperament in preschool children. In the first phase of our research (T1), we administered a false belief task to 101 3- and 4- year-old Italian children. In the second phase (T2), 69 children belonging to the original sample were assessed again at 5 and 6 years of age, and their temperament was evaluated through parental ratings. Correlational analyses and independent-samples t-tests revealed significant positive relations of false belief understanding to inhibitory control and negative relations to motor activity/hyperactivity and anger/frustration (even though the latter was only marginal), whereas no relation was found to attention control. These results confirm and extend findings from previous studies. Unexpectedly, we did not find any significant association with shyness, despite evidence to the contrary from recent research. Overall, our findings show that false belief understanding relates differently to various dimensions of temperament in the preschool period and highlight the importance of conducting further investigation on the relation between ToM and temperament.

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