British Journal of Health Psychology

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Adolescent temperament dimensions as stable prospective risk and protective factors for salivary C‐reactive protein

  • Author(s): Benjamin W. Nelson, Michelle L. Byrne, Julian G. Simmons, Sarah Whittle, Orli S. Schwartz, Neil M. O'Brien‐Simpson, Katrina A. Walsh, Eric C. Reynolds, Nicholas B. Allen
  • Published 15 Oct 2017
  • DOI: 10.1111/bjhp.12281

Objective

Temperament has associations with later physical health outcomes, yet there is a dearth of research exploring the connection between temperament and mechanisms that have known associations with these health outcomes. Recent research has delineated a connection between personality and inflammation during adulthood, but this association has not yet been studied in adolescent samples.

Design

We investigated whether stable adolescent temperament (averaged over two years), specifically effortful control and negative emotionality, provided a more robust prediction of inflammation as measured by salivary C‐reactive protein (sCRP), than depressive symptoms.

Methods

Temperament and depressive symptoms were measured in a sample of sixty‐three adolescents (37 males) when they were approximately 12 years old (mean age = 12.30, SD = 0.69) and again when they were approximately 14 years old (mean age = 14.84, SD = 0.49). Levels of sCRP were determined approximately 7 months later (mean = 6.77, SD = 2.99) when participants were approximately 15 years old (mean age = 15.49, SD = 0.49).

Results

Regression analyses revealed that effortful control (EC) was significantly associated with lower sCRP levels, while higher negative emotionality (NE) was significantly associated with higher sCRP levels. Furthermore, these associations were larger than those for depressive symptoms and were differentially impacted by the addition of covariates. Implications for the role of stable risk and protective factors in inflammatory processes are discussed.

Conclusions

These findings are the first to show associations between adolescent temperament and inflammation. Furthermore, these findings extend previous personality research to temperamental research in a younger sample of adolescents.

What is already known?

  • There is a large extant literature on the association between depressive symptoms and inflammation.
  • There is a smaller extant literature on the association between personality and inflammation.
  • No studies have examined how adolescent temperament traits may relate to inflammation.

What does this study add?

  • Longitudinal data collection over the course of 3 years in an adolescent sample.
  • Addresses the question of whether temperament factors relate to inflammation.
  • Temperament provides a more robust predictor of later inflammation than depressive symptoms.

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