Child and Adolescent Individual Differences

Objectives and subject-specific competences

Objectives: to explain contemporary models of the development of individual differences (ID) in childhood/adolescence, types of continuity and change in ID, a role of genetic and environmental factors in the development of ID, effects of early ID on developmental outcomes and age-specific methodology in investigating ID. Competences: understanding of different kinds of continuity/change in the development of ID, mechanisms of continuity/change, relative effects of genetics and environment on ID and developmental models of IR in childhood/adolescence; efficiency in explaining the role of ID in later developmental outcomes and applying age-specific techniques, methods and approaches to assess ID in pre-adult developmental periods.

Description of content

Contemporary models of the development of individual differences (ID) in children and adolescents, a person-centered and a trait-centered approach in exploration of ID. Several types of developmental change (or continuity) in ID: mean- or absolute-level change (in mean-trait expression between different age-groups), relative change (in individuals’ rank-ordering within their age-group over time), individual-level change (reliable change within the person over time), ipsative change (in individual trait-profile over time), structural change (in the structure of traits over time), type-level change (in the structure of the trait-profile), individual type-membership change and continuity/change in trait expression across contexts. The role of genes and envorionment in the development of ID: direct, mediating and the effects of G-O interaction. Assessment of ID in childhood and adolescence: age-specific approaches, methods, techniques and measures with an emphasis on temperament, personality and characteristics of social behaviour (internalizing, externalizing and social competence). The role of early ID in the development of social adjustment, cognition, academic motivation, competence and achievement. Personality, cognitive and social factors of academic competence and achievement in childhood/adolescence. Temperament and personality characteristics in context: the interactions between phenotypic expression of ID and context characteristics on developmental outcomes.

Basic bibliography

  1. Kavčič T., & Zupančič, M. (2006). Osebnost otrok in njihovi medosebni odnosi v družini [Child personality and interpersonal relationships within families]. Ljubljana: Znanstvenoraziskovalni inštitut Filozofske fakultete. (80 pages to study)
  2. Zupančič, M. (in preparation). Razvoj individualnih razlik med otroki in mladostniki: Petfaktorski model osebnosti [Development of individual differences in children and adolescents: The Five-Factor Model of personality]. Ljubljana: i2. (100 pages to study)
  3. Zupančič M. (2001). Razvojni predhodniki velikih pet dimenzij osebnosti [Developmental antecedents of the Big Five dimensions of personality]. In L. Marjanovič Umek & M. Zupančič (Eds.), Razvojna psihologija: izbrane teme [Developmental psychology: Selected works] (pp. 28-41). Ljubljana: Oddelek za psihologijo Filozofske fakultete. (11 pages to study)

Or in English:

  1. Kohnstamm, G. A., Halverson, C. F., Mervielde, I., & Havill, L. (Eds.) (1998). Parental descriptions of child personality. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. (40 pages to study)
  2. Wachs, T. D., & Kohnstamm, G. A. (Eds.) (2001). Temperament in context. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. (50 pages to study).
  3. Pulkkinen, L., & Caspi, A. (Eds.) (2002). Paths to successful development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (100 pages to study).

Envisaged learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

The students:
-know, comprehend and comparatively evaluate the contemporary models of the development of ID, the role of heredity and environment, gene-environment correlations and interactions in developmental periods prior to adulthood;
-are acquainted to the age-specific instruments to assess ID in childhood/adolescence, know about their advantages and limitations in different contexts;
-understand specific types of continuity and change in ID over time, clearly distinguish between these types, comprehend and evaluate the role of ID in developmental outcomes (e.g. adjustment to (pre)school; academic and social competence).


The students:
-are able to apply the knowledge attained in counselling and providing psychological assistance to target individuals and their reference persons;
-reasonably use the contemporary knowledge and explanations of the development of ID while interpreting individual cases;
-employ their knowledge about the role of ID in child and adolescent later development across different contexts;
-select relevant age-specific approaches and instruments to assess ID in children and adolescents.


The students develop:
-a critical distance toward administration of various age-specific approaches, methods and instruments to assess ID in children and adolescents;
-skills to reduce bias when collecting, evaluating and interpreting individual- and group-level data on their own; -skills to find new and relevant professional questions basing on the knowledge and experience attained;
-ability to compare the role of ID in developmental outcomes from multiple points of view and different models of explanation.

Transferable skills

The students develop skills:
-required to work professionally with children/adolescents of different ages;
-to use scientific literature and other relevant sources of information and reflect upon the data acquired;
-to detect a professional problem, seek for appropriate sources of information, collect reliable and valid empirical data relevant to the problem under investigation;
-to employ their psychological knowledge and understanding while interpreting the empirical data obtained.

Curriculum compiler

Prof. dr. Maja Zupančič

1. Zupančič, M., Podlesek, A., & Kavčič, T. (2006). Personality types as derived from parental reports on 3-year-old. European Journal of Personality, 20, 285-303.
2. Zupančič, M. (2004). Parental free descriptions of child personality: Applicability of the Five-factor model taxonomy from infancy through pre-school years. Studia Psychologica, 46(2), 145-162.
3. Zupančič, M., & Kavčič, T. (2005). Child personality measures as contemporaneous and longitudinal predictors of social behaviour in preschool. Horizons of Psychology, 14(1), 17-33.