How Does Temperament Affect Personality and Parenting Style?

Updated October 5, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people believe that the development of our personalities could be based on the people around us, affecting our career paths and life experiences. Every seemingly minor or major experience could alter how we think and act; plus, how we represent ourselves may change over time as we meet new people and say goodbye to loved ones and friends. This article will discuss four styles - choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic.

Can Understanding Temperament Help You Better Relate To Others?

Understanding Personality And Personality Development

A person's temperament is how they behave and represent themselves based on personality traits and impactful experiences. Temperament remains constant and serves as a means to help you determine how you will react to situations. It's a way to recognize consistent personality traits.

One study indicated that brain-stem processes determine temperament. Each person has a unique brain stem that cannot change throughout their life. Although the brain stem does not change, this does not mean that people are incapable of change. A child’s personality changes over time.

Rather, people can introduce new types of behavior to their temperament as they see more of the world and evolve their behavior. Think about how children respond to stimuli, and how these responses change over time. The same child who turned to see the mother’s face as an infant when she called its name may turn and walk out of the room as a teenager.

No matter your temperament, you always have the potential to improve your life while remaining proud of your own unique identity. Simply existing in this world is a miracle, so try to make the most of it.

Can You Change Your Personality?

While your underlying temperament is permanent, you can change how you behave as you get older and continue building your experience based on how you see the world. Through awareness and understanding environmental factors affect how you think and feel, you have the power to change your outlook. If you felt like you acted unfairly in the past, you can improve your disposition by recognizing the four temperament types.

Personality Styles

When it comes to determining temperament, psychologists recognize four primary temperament types. The names of the types were originally names of humor in more distant times. In this case, humor does not mean what you find funny! This is the basis for an antiquated concept of medical science, and each trait is based on a Latin word. In fact, even the word is based on Latin temperāmentum

In these times, people believed that temperament was determined by relative proportions of certain traits, which will also affect their behavior. This is a concept that was brought forward by Galen of Pergamon, and is a phenomenon known as Galen’s Prophecy, which describes many of the ancient terms you’ll read about later.

These terms are the humors mentioned before, and humorism refers to the fluids believed to be present within an individual’s body. Since different people have different amounts of fluids, people thought that a dominant presence of one fluid defined a person’s temperament. Although modern medicine rejects humor’s role in temperament, the names of the four temperament types stuck.

Someone will likely have both primary and secondary temperament types. A person can have any combination of temperament types to make up their personality and disposition. Remember that the following descriptions summarize common traits that people with these temperaments may exhibit, and it is not an exhaustive or diagnostic list. Many people will identify with a mix of the types or some aspects of the descriptions.

How do your own temperaments stack up to these descriptions?


People with sanguine temperaments are people-oriented, exhibiting traits such as outgoing and extroverted. Moreover, they emphasize people are working together and trying to do good for one another,  generally being helpful overall. It is the most common type of temperament and is typically either a primary type or secondary type.

This temperament type is just as likely to be found in men as it is in women. Some people are considered "super sanguine" because they are so overly talkative and active that it can be overwhelming to be around them.

Sanguine Characteristics

People with the sanguine temperament type have a wide range of emotions and a wide range of behavior. They are the most versatile of all the temperaments. Depending on their secondary temperament, they might be involved in nearly any human activity. However, they enjoy occasions when they can interact with or change their environment.

Sanguine Traits

When you first meet someone with a sanguine temperament, you're likely to feel you've known them for a long time. They are comfortable to talk to and get to know. They are extremely friendly, talkative, and social and their disposition leads to them being sociable. They will frequently get caught up in conversations and lose track of time. However, if they get bored, they can lose attention quickly. Their attention span is directly related to how much they enjoy the conversation or what they are doing.

Sanguine temperaments are also highly dynamic. If they think about it or feel it, they will say it. They have no filter. Their hyperactivity often leads to forgetfulness and being disorganized. This temperament type is extremely competitive. They dominate sports, politics, and the business world. They also fear making a bad impression and rejection. They want most to be accepted but also to be the best they can be.


Phlegmatic temperaments are also common, but they can be seen as almost the opposite disposition of sanguine temperaments. People with this temperament type are service-oriented, exhibiting introverted personality traits, but will work with others to achieve a common goal. These people may seem passive and lack general ambition or specifically to accomplish a goal or milestone. However, it is also possible to have a sanguine type primarily and a secondary type of phlegmatic, or the other way around.

Phlegmatic Characteristics

The passiveness of the phlegmatic temperament type leads to a distinct set of characteristics. They are easy-going, calm, and unemotional. They can be indecisive and agreeable and are usually happy to allow others to make decisions for them.

Phlegmatic temperament people are slow to warm up to others but will make friends fairly easily. They are one of the easiest temperament types to get along with because they are so agreeable and patient. However, they stick closely to their routines and resist change.

Phlegmatic Traits

People with a phlegmatic temperament tend to live quiet lives centered around home and family. They don't get involved in the world around them or with other people. However, they also have a disposition that can be described as being fiercely loyal to their friends and will stick with a relationship regardless of what the other person does or says. However, once a relationship does break, they are not likely to return to it.

Can Understanding Temperament Help You Better Relate To Others?

This temperament type is content to let things happen. They are not quick to make decisions, and they are not ambitious. However, they resist change and may avoid novel situations. They may need quite a bit of time and patience to adapt to change, especially sudden.


When most people hear the word melancholy, they think of depression. However, the melancholy temperament type or disposition is not necessarily depressed so much as they are cautious. Those with melancholy temperaments are detail and quality-oriented, obsessing with understanding what is right.  Also, they might be seen as paying strict attention to detail, which could make them out as perfectionists. This is another common temperament type.

Melancholy Characteristics

The melancholy temperament is a rule follower. They can be cautious and tentative in unfamiliar environments, and show signs of behavioral inhibition, but they can also become aggressive when faced with an unfavorable situation. They are private and introverted. This temperament is factual, logical, and analytical. To function without anxiety, these people need to have a solid action plan and follow it to the letter.

Melancholy Traits

The melancholy temperament may show symptoms of being anxious and people with this temperament might show signs of this dating back from their early years. They might worry about the future and what others think. They may also worry about how things might have been done differently in the past. As such, they may seem like they resist living in the present.

This temperament is generally well organized, even if they become cluttered. People with this disposition are usually on time for appointments and expect others to be as well. Before making decisions, they will gather as much information as possible and ask specific questions to make sure they are making the right decision.

People of the melancholy temperament are also suspicious and conscientious. They are slow to trust others until they are sure of their intentions. It is difficult for them to form relationships, and they have high standards for their relationships.


The choleric temperament is the rarest of the four primary types. Those with a choleric temperament are results-driven by making goals and sticking with them until they are completed. Thus, they exhibit a positive demeanor or disposition and are constantly moving forward. Despite any opposition, they face everything with the mindset of getting results and achieving their desires. It is more common for choleric to be a secondary temperament, although this is not as common as other combinations.

Choleric Characteristics

People with a choleric temperament are extroverted and exude self-confidence. They are independent and strong-willed and do not show signs of having a low energy level. They have quick minds and are generally active and practical in their activities, but can also be sensation seeking at times.. Their communication style is assertive and direct, often brief, almost to the point of rudeness.

This temperament type enjoys taking risks and gets bored easily. They can be domineering and opinionated. They find it easy to make decisions, not only for themselves but for others as well. They can be somewhat controlling in relationships. Choleric types also tend to require less sleep than other temperament types.

Choleric Traits

People with the choleric temperament are creative and have an outgoing disposition. They never seem to run out of ideas or plans, all of which tend to be practical. They are steadfast in their ideas, however, and will not give in to peer pressure.

While they can be compassionate and rally for social causes, they are slow to build relationships in their personal life. They likely only have a few close friends, even though they are not afraid to meet and talk to new people. They don't tend to empathize with others. However, they are also very slow to anger, though their domineering personality and direct manner of speaking can put them at higher risk of being misconstrued as anger.

9 Temperament Characteristics to Know

Personalities are complex systems affected by external, internal and genetic stimuli. Some psychologists prefer to identify early childhood development personality traits by the child’s temperament, with nine traits to consider. The nine temperament characteristics are as follows:

  1. Activity Level
  2. Biological Rhythms
  3. Sensitivity
  4. Intensity of Reaction
  5. Adaptability
  6. Approach and Withdrawal
  7. Persistence
  8. Distractibility
  9. Mood

These nine traits are still generally applied to developmental science, and it’s one of the many classification schemes that can provide interesting insight into the innate characteristics of a child’s behavior and the responses of their family. Determining temperament of children or adults depends on many factors, including how each innate characteristic influences the other. Many personalities combine temperament traits, just like the four humors.

Additionally, parents find that their children have varied emotional reactivity depending on relative proportions. With infant temperament, having a low sensory threshold can result in externalizing problems like tantrums and angry outbursts, whereas a high sensory threshold may have no outward implications: a child may seem unaffected and display no emotional reactivity. The hungry child may react differently in a store with bright lights than one who has just had lunch.

Recognizing that every family may have different combinations of traits show why having an adaptable parenting style is necessary during their child’s school years. Parents who have a child with an artistic temperament may have exceptional fine motor skills. These children likely will appreciate having paintbrushes or chalk as they spend countless hours creating. The child who is easily distracted may not find drawing and painting pleasurable; too many other things are competing for their attention and the child responds differently to other types of stimuli. This is something that can also be common in different kinds of behavior disorders in children.

Navigating Personality Differences

The different temperament types don't always mesh well and lead to emotional reactivity. It is possible that two people of very different temperaments could experience varying degrees of behavioral problems and relationship issues.  By recognizing personality traits and even the nine temperament traits, you can learn to understand each other and their individual differences and learn ways to cope with each other's needs as well as ways to avoid externalizing problems. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Understand How Your Temperament Affects Your Life

The way you perceive the world around you has a direct impact on how you interact with it, and understanding temperament continues to help us be more aware of this. Armed with more knowledge about your temperament, you can cultivate more awareness of this personality and what it means for you in your daily life. Improving awareness, effortful control and inhibitory control is always the first step in cultivating change, even for parents working with child temperaments.

A More Positive Outlook Can Help

Through inhibitory and effortful control, you can better manage your temperaments by finding ways to help you create a positive outlook on your life, including being grateful for your friends and loved ones. Trying to find a positive way to look at the world can give you or your child the ability to thrive without fear holding you back from fully experiencing or enjoying the world. Also, throughout your life span, it’s important to set goals that you can realistically achieve and give yourself whatever time you need to achieve them. Think of living a more positive life as a journey more than a destination. For example, if you want to move out of your house, make small subgoals to lead you to that point, such as saving up a certain amount of money each month or buying useful miscellaneous items for the future home.

Set Solid, Achievable Goals

We can't get anywhere without goals, which is true even when it comes to your personality. What type of person do you want to be? If you want an even temperament, does it differ from who you are now? What changes can you make to alter that path? Despite the vagueness of the question, being a better person regardless of your own individual differences may involve being attentive to others and trying to earn the respect of the people you genuinely like. Although goals imply work, you have the ability to get to where you want to be with the proper willpower and work ethic.

Personality Help Online

In these and other situations, it can be helpful to seek out the help of a therapist while you are trying to learn more about who you are through things like the four personality traits and nine temperament characteristics. A therapist can help narrow down temperament types and help others understand them, including child development, psychiatric disorders, more fully, greatly improving relationships and making everyone in the family much happier. One great resource to turn to is BetterHelp.

BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that connects you to helpful, experienced therapists via an online connection so that you can avoid the hassle of having to travel to a local office or try to schedule appointments during busy parts of your day. You can see the impact BetterHelp counselors have made from the testimonials below.

Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:

What is a person's temperament?

What are the 4 types of temperament?

What is an example of temperament?

What are the 3 types of temperament?

What is temperament and attitude?

What is emotional temperament?

What is the best temperament?

Who is phlegmatic person?

What are the 5 dimensions of temperament?

What are the 9 temperament traits?

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