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Biological influences

Chapter 1
Biological Influences
The bio-medical model views the locus of behavior problems as being within a child. The causes of these problems vary widely. A problem may have a genetic basis, as in conditions likeschizophrenia and some forms of depression. The cause may have a neurological basis such asdevelopmental lag. The resulting neurological immaturity causes greater distractibility and poorerimpulse control than normally expected for a child's age. A problem may also be due to impairedbiochemical functioning. Such impairments can result from toxic agents like lead, cocaine or alcoholand can result in conditions such as hyperactivity. Medication is often the treatment given to studentswho have conditions with biological antecedents.
Many students in public schools are taking psychoactive medications for behavioral conditions (Forness, Sweeney, & Toy, 1996). The most frequently given psychoactive medications are stimulantsand tranquilizers (see Table 1.1). The most common medication is some type of stimulant prescribedfor hyperactivity. Clearly, treatment by medication is outside the professional role of educators.
Educators should never recommend, to parents or anyone else, medicating a student. Educatorsshould never become involved in the administration of drug treatments except in strict compliancewith official school system policies. However, educators do have a responsibility to students who areon medication. Educators should: Know that a student is on medication.
Know what effects, positive and negative, to expect.
Know who to contact if a serious side effect occurs.
Report to parents any observation of possible adverse effects.
Report to parents, if requested, any observation of possible helpful effects.
You should consider keeping data on file on each of your medicated students. The data needs to cover the points outlined above. A convenient way to keep this data is on a standard form (seeFigure 1.1). An obvious source of information about a child's medication is a parent or guardian.
If you do not know that a student is on medication but suspect he or she is taking medication, youshould ask. Always ask about possible medications during initial parent conferences. An excellentsource of information on medications is the Physicians’ Desk Reference (Medical Economics, 1997).
You can find this book in the reference section of any good library. There are also reference sites onthe World Wide Web with similar information, e.g., (
The major categories of psychoactive medication. Their uses and common brand names associated with the category.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Antipsychotic Agents Major Use: To reduce agitation, panic, severe anxiety, and psychomotor excitement. Common Brand Names: Thorazine, Mellaril, Trilafon, Stelazine, Prolixin, Haldol, Moban, Clozaril, and Navane. Common Side Effects: Sedation, rigid shuffling walk, lack of facial expression, hand tremor or repetitive hand motions, restlessness, rocking, fidgeting,dizziness, dry mouth, nasal congestion, and constipation. Major Uses: To reduce situational stress or anxiety associated with an emotional condition. Common Brand Names: Valium, Librium, Serax, Tranxene, Vistaril, Atarax, Equanil, and Miltown. Common Side Effects: Tolerance, physical dependence, drowsiness, uncoordinated movement, impaired emotional and intellectual functioning, andlethargy. Major Uses: To reduce depressive mood, restore activity, reduce negative expectations, and reduce self-blame. Common Brand Names: Tofranil, Norpramin, Pertofrane, Elavil, Aventyl, Sinequan, Vivactil, Triavil, Etrafon, Marplan, Nardil, Parnate, Endep, Pamelor,Ludiomil, Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. Common Side Effects: Dry mouth, nasal congestion, constipation, dizziness, sedation, fine motor tremor, and muscular jerkiness. Major Uses: To reduce the occurrence and the frequency and intensity of manic and depressive episodes. Common Brand Names: Eskalith, Lithane, and Lithonate. Common Side Effects: Slight nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, thirst, dazed feeling, weakness, tiredness, muscular tremors, muscular rigidity, loss of appetite,and diarrhea. Sedative-Hypnotics Major Uses: Sedation, insomnia, reduction of inhibitions, and mood elevation. Common Brand Names: Amytal, Seconal, Tuinal, Nembutal, Pentothal, Luninal, Placidyl, Doriden, Noludar, Noctec, Dalmane, and Quaalude. Common Side Effects: Slurred speech, impaired intellectual functioning, impaired motor performance, passivity, tolerance, and physical dependence. Major Uses: Suppression of appetite, narcolepsy, increased alertness, decreased sense of fatigue, elevated mood, improved motor performance, and reductionof hyperactivity in some children. Common Brand Names: Benzedrine, Dexedrine, Methedrine, Desoxyn, Dexamyl, Ritalin, Cylert, and Perludin. Common Side Effects: Loss of appetite, nervousness, restlessness, insomnia, tolerance, and psychological dependence. Medication Data Form
Student's Name:_________________________________ Date:____________ Medication:_____________________________________________________ When Taken:____________________________________________________ Medicated Condition:______________________________________________ Effects To Watch For:_____________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________ Contact Person:_________________________________ Phone____________ _______________________________________________________________ Figure 1.1. A illustration of a medication data form to keep a record on medicated students.
Both children and adults can have allergic reactions. Allergic reactions can cause such symptoms as: Hives, swollen eyes, nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing and wheezing. However,according to Doris Rapp (1980), it is less widely recognized that allergies can cause behavioralreactions. Some of these symptoms include: Restlessness, irritability, emotional lability, tenseness,sullenness, fatigue, lethargy and hyperactivity. These symptoms may occur along with complaintsabout aches, pains or general discomfort. Some of the common allergens reported by Doris Rappinclude but are not limited to: Foods: Milk, corn, wheat, egg, cocoa, sugar, coffee, food coloring, additives, preservatives,orange, grape, apple, tomato, pork, peanuts and cinnamon.
Chemical Agents: Tobacco smoke, perfume, phenol, natural gas, gasoline, chlorine,synthetic household fibers such as polyester or polyurethane, insecticides, aerosols andauto exhaust gases.
Biological Agents: Pollens, molds, mildew, dust mites, yeasts and pet or animal fur.
Treatment of student known to have allergies may include various medications, nutritional supplements, diet restrictions or environmental restrictions. You should also follow data collectionprocedures, like those outlined above for psychoactive medications, for students being treated forallergies.
Temperament One biological antecedent that probably affects everyone's behavior is temperament. Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas (1986,1987,1991) studied the relationship of temperament to behaviorproblems. Temperament is an inherited response tendency or style. The response dimensions studiedby Chess and Thomas include: Tendency to approach or withdraw from novel stimuli.
Ease of adaptability to changing circumstances. Length of attention span and degree of persistence at tasks.
Each of these responses has a normal range of variability. A given individual's typical response can be anywhere within the normal range of variability. The typical response can differ for each ofthe response types.
These dimensions have many possible combinations or patterns. No doubt, these temperament patterns represent one of the reasons for the considerable differences in normal behavioror individuality. Temperament is probably one of the reasons that you can't expect equal results fromsimilar treatment of different students. Research has identified several temperament patterns. Theseinclude the Easy Child pattern, the Difficult Child pattern, the Slow-to-Warm-up Child pattern andMixed. The patterns reflect various combinations of the nine response dimensions. Some typicaldescriptors for seven of the nine dimensions found useful in identifying temperament patterns are inTable 1.2. Two of the original nine dimensions, biological rhythmicity and threshold ofresponsiveness to sensory stimuli, will not be covered since there is little or no evidence about theirsignificance for school functioning.
Each dimension of temperament appears to have a biological basis. However, temperament only represents response tendencies or predispositions. A predisposition does not absolutelydetermine behavior, rather it represents the path of least resistance. Predispositions can be modifiedby experience. Some appear more easily modifiable than others. The predispositions that are mostresistant to change are Activity Level and Approach to Novel Stimuli. It is particularly important notto confuse high activity level (a response style) in this model with hyperactivity (a medical condition).
Low to high on any of these dimensions alone is reflective only of a range of variation that can beexpected in children.
Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas (1986) as well as William Carey and Sean McDevitt (1995) have discussed the effects of temperament on both school adaptation and social development.
They point out that for a difficult child school entry can be a very stressful event and may be markedby loud and prolonged crying or other indications of distress. Such distress may be misinterpretedas an indication of immaturity. They found that a patient, sympathetic and consistent response fromsuch a child's teacher usually led to an acceptable adaptation to school. However, there appears tobe a greater risk of poor adaptation and continuing difficulties if such a child is not handled properly.
Likewise, the slow-to-warm-up child may also have difficulty in adapting to school entry and find the experience distressing. Such a child will usually react to this stressful event by withdrawing.
This response can be misinterpreted by such a child's teacher leading to referral of the child foremotional problems. However, if positive and supportive guidance is given, there is a very goodchance that a successful adaptation will be made. If a slow-to-warm-up child is mis-perceived ashaving emotional problems and the child is treated as such, there exists the possibility of the mis-perception becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, the child's behavior may come to reflect theteacher's expectations.
Both the difficult and the slow-to-warm-up child may experience particular difficulty with social relations in middle childhood. Social relationships during this period begin to becomeconsiderably more complex and are often distressing and confusing to children in both of thesetemperament patterns. This is most likely when such children have failed to develop the necessarysocial skills and coping behaviors needed to handle a more complex set of social situations. Behavior Table 1.2
Seven of the nine response dimension in the Chess and Thomas temperament model with descriptiveterms that might be used to describe an individual high or low on each dimension.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Activity Level:
High: Restless, energetic, active
Low: Relaxed, lethargic, passive
Quality of Mood:
Positive: Enjoyable, helpful, playful
Negative: Distressing, oppositional, serious
Approach Tendency to Novel Stimuli:
High: Assertive, decisive, curious
Low: Shy, hesitant, withdrawn
Persistence at Tasks:
High: Tenacious, involved, diligent
Low: Fickle, indifferent, impatient
Intensity of Response to Stimuli:
High: Enthusiastic, loud, hyperactive
Low: Calm, quiet, hypoactive
Adaptability to Change:
High: Compliant, sociable, flexible
Low: Reticent, anxious, rigid
Distractibility by Intrusive Stimuli:
High: Distractible, impulsive, confused
Low: Attentive, reflective, purposeful
problems can occur or previously existing behavior problems can intensify and possibly become morenumerous. The difficult child's peer relations can become very conflicted resulting in social rejectionand isolation. The slow-to-warm-up child will usually withdraw from and avoid social situationsresulting in the child being viewed by peers as either a snob or as strange. Chess and Thomas also discuss the special role of activity level in school adaptation, particularly after the initial adjustment period is past. A child with a normal but high activity levelruns the risk of being mis-labeled as hyperactive. A child with a normal but low activity level mightbe regarded as a slow learner or even as retarded. Such judgments often become self-fulfillingprophecies because of the expectations that are set and the influence those expectations have uponteacher/student interactions.
Further, a child with low persistence and high distractibility represents a troublesome combination. When these two traits occur together, the child's frequent failure to complete tasks canbe interpreted as a lack of motivation or even willful resistance to instruction. This can lead to eithergiving up on the child or confrontation and conflict. Neither response to this combination of traitswill be helpful. Finally, in social situations, a child with high persistence and low distractibility canbe mis-perceived as too demanding or even as aggressive, particularly when his or her peers want todrop something and move to a new activity.
Roy Martin (1992, 1994), a school psychologist, has been particularly interested in the role of temperament in school problems. He, like Chess and Thomas, has emphasized the importance ofhow teachers interpret a child's behavior. Attributing problem behavior to incorrect causes can leadnot only to inadequate responses to the behavior but can make the problem worse. Further, he thinksthat it is equally important for teachers to recognize that behavior is not just the result oftemperamental predispositions but rather the interaction of those predispositions with theenvironment. Knowing this can lead to designing appropriate environments, for children at risk, thatminimize problems and facilitate appropriate development. An illustration of this approach is a studyby Lauren Orth and Roy Martin (1994) that found a pattern in students with a particularly low taskorientation to school work. I would call this the Difficult Child Pattern II. In an evaluation ofstandard teacher-directed instruction versus computer-directed instruction, they found that studentswith this pattern had significantly less off-task behavior with computer-directed instruction. If atemperamentally troublesome child is to make a successful adaptation to school, it is very importantthat teachers correctly identify the basis for the child's behavior and then make appropriateaccommodations to it.
Teachers might find it useful to try to evaluate each of their students' response predispositions relative to the Chess and Thomas response dimensions. There are a number of informal rating scalesavailable to do this, including scales developed by the Kaiser Permanete medical group and one byKeogh, Pullis, and Cadwell (1982) adapted from a Chess and Thomas scale. The results from suchinformal scales are merely suggestive, not diagnostic in nature. The results can be useful for eitherforming a working hypothesis to be tested through your use of it in planning for and interacting with a student or as a screening instrument to indicate a possible need for further assessment.
Appraisal of a student's response tendencies can provide a teacher with useful information for planning activities. With this knowledge activities can be planned to take advantage of some responsepredispositions and to avoid potential problems associated with others. Knowledge of responsetendencies can also help in efforts to modify troublesome predispositions. Knowledge of responsetendencies can also help a teacher select his or her responses to a student. This is important becauseteacher responses can influence either desirable or undesirable behaviors in a student.
Another approach to temperament is illustrated by the work of the British psychologist Hans Eysenck (1967,1981, 1991). Eysenck's approach is based on a biosocial model that emphasizes theinteraction of temperament and environment to produce personality. He, like Chess and Thomas,is concerned with biologically based behavioral styles. Whether the term temperament or personalityis used, biological factors in behavior are the focus of their work. Eysenck has developed apersonality test for three major personality dimensions, with a biological basis, that affect behavioralstyle. Eysenck's test is available in two forms. One form is for children (Junior version) and the otheris for adults (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975, 1993). A short form of the child version of this test has beendeveloped for research purposes and could be used for classroom screening as well (Corulla, 1990).
The three behavior traits that Eysenck's work and tests focus on are represented by bi-polar scales (labeled the P, E, and N ). An Easy Child temperament would be a child who is near averageon all three Eysenckian scales. High N and low E Scale scores are analogous to the Slow-to-Warm-up Child temperament. High P and high E Scale scores are analogous to the Difficult Childtemperament. As you will see later, Eysenck's three personality traits can be combined to producea number of patterns other than the three patterns identified by Chess and Thomas in their work. Thethree bi-polar scales are presented in Figure 1.2. Extreme positions on these three dimensionspredispose a person to certain types of behavioral styles and disorders (see Figure 1.2). Monte (1995) reviews and summarizes Eysenck’s theoretical model or personality based on temperamental source traits. The historical antecedents for the model can be found in Hippocrates’and Galen’s classical temperament theory, Pavlov’s conception of nervous system types, and Hull’stheory of learning. Eysenck proposes several biological mechanisms for explaining his three sourcetraits. Two of these traits, Extroversion (E) and Neuroticism (N), Eysenck clearly relates to arousallevels in the central nervous system. His explanation for the Psychoticism (P) trait is related topolygenetic influences on behavior. Characteristics associated with high levels of each of these traitsare listed in Figure 1.3. Characteristics associated with low levels of these traits would be theopposite of the characteristics listed for high levels. Eysenck thinks differences between people on the E trait are due to differences in the function of their ascending reticular activating system (ARAS). The ARAS stimulates the brain’s cortex to Low Extroversion <-----------------------------------> High Extroversion(Introverted) Low Neuroticism <------------------------------------> High Neuroticism(Rational) Low Psychoticism <-----------------------------------> High Psychoticism(Sensitive) Figure 1.2. The above illustrate the descriptive labels, response styles and possible disordersassociated with each of Eysenck’s three personality dimensions. The descriptive labels appear in ( ), style labels appear in [ ] and disorder labels appear in { }: Psychoticism:
Figure 1.3. Lists of characteristics associated with each of Eysenck’s three temperamental sourcetraits in personality.
activate its cells to produce a state of excitability. The cortex may in turn generate feedback to theARAS, which either further increases its excitatory input or damps it down. This model suggests thatthe ARAS is responsible for cortical efficiency in learning, conditioning, wakefulness, and attention.
The ARAS appears to mediate states of cortical arousal, ranging from sleep to extreme behavioralexcitation. Eysenck suggests that the function of the cortex is to inhibit the activities of lower brainfunctions. Therefore, a highly aroused cortex would inhibit behavior. This, it is suggested, is whyalcohol disinhibits behavior; i.e., it inhibits or suppresses the cortex. In the case of extroverts, highE, the base level of cortical arousal is normally low and less susceptible to stimulation. Thus, inextroverts behavior is less inhibited than in persons who have higher levels of cortical arousal. In thecase of introverts, low E, the base level of cortical arousal is normally high and more susceptible tostimulation. Therefore, in introverts behavior is more inhibited than in persons who have lower levelsof cortical arousal. The differences in base level arousal between introverts and extroverts is evidentin research on their differential response to drugs. Introverts require more of a sedative drug thando extroverts to reach a specified level of sedation. Conversely, extroverts require a smaller dosethan do introverts of a depressant drug to reach a specified level of sedation.
Hamer and Copeland (1998), behavior geneticists at the National Institute of Health, report that research has shown a connection between sensation and novelty seeking behavior and levels ofthe neurotransmitter dopamine. The higher one’s dopamine levels the greater pleasure oneexperiences from novel and intense stimulation. Variation in a specific gene, D4DR, has beenconnected with inherited difference in dopamine levels. This research offers another perspective onthe Extroversion trait. One may exhibit high E traits, in part, because of the increased level ofpleasure generated by a high level of dopamine. Hamer and Copeland also point out the importanceof environmental factors in the behavioral expression of dopamine influences. For example, someonewith high dopamine levels who developed in an aversive social environment might learn to obtainpleasure from the stimulation produced by criminal activity while someone from a more supportivesocial environment might learn to obtain pleasure from the stimulation provided by hobbies like skydiving or an occupation involving intense stimulation such as being a member of a search and rescueteam. Extroverts may be of two types. In the first type, sociable, outgoing, and stimulus-seeking behavior predominates and susceptibility to psychopathy is similar to that in a normal personality. Inthe second type, impulsivity and an inability to inhibit antisocial urges and behaviors predominatesand criminal or psychopathic behavior is likely. Psychopathic disorders are thought to stem from afailure to learn the anxiety-based inhibition that underlies “normal” socialization training. Theextrovert who becomes a psychopathic personality does so because his or her cortical and emotionalunder arousal impedes the learning of anxiety-based self-restraint and moral or ethical inhibitions.
Differences between people on the N trait, it is suggested, are due to differences in visceral brain activation (VBA) which depends upon the hypothalamus and limbic system. The VBA systemexerts its effects through the autonomic or involuntary nervous system. The range of neural effectsextends from activation of glands and muscles to heart rate, respiration, and perspiration. The base level and responsiveness of the VBA system can range from low to high levels of activation.
Emotionally stable individuals, low N, are not very susceptible to emotional arousal. Suchindividuals can remain calm more easily when in emotionally stimulating circumstances. Their lowVBA tendencies also make them more resistant to respondent conditioning. Emotionally excitableindividuals, high N, are very susceptible to emotional arousal. Such individuals will becomeemotionally aroused in situations than most people would have little reaction to. Their high VBAtendencies also make them more susceptible to respondent conditioning. In states of extremeemotional activation, e.g., rage, sadness, or fear, the normal separation of functioning between theARAS’s arousal of the cortex and the VB’s emotional activation of the autonomic nervous systembreaks down. In effect, the E and N traits lose their independence when an individual is highlyaroused emotionally.
Hamer and Copeland (1998) report research that connects the neurotransmitter serotonin with Neuroticism. These researchers report that there are significant differences in levels of such traits asanxiety, depression, and pessimism associated with serotonin levels. The mechanism appears to bean inherited variation in DNA that affects serotonin transport. The less efficient one’s serotonintransporter the higher one’s level of neurotic traits like anxiety. Since traits like anxiety areassociated with the autonomic nervous system, it may be that serotonin plays a role in the emotionalactivation system suggested by Eysenck. There are two types of neurotics. First, there are individuals who are high on the N trait (emotional) who are susceptible to developing neurotic symptoms, such as phobias, obsessions andcompulsions, and intense anxiety attacks due to their predisposition for high emotional arousal andincreased responsiveness to respondent conditioning. Second, there are individuals who are high onN (emotional) and low on E (introverted) who are at even greater risk. Neurotic symptoms in theseindividuals are learned maladaptive responses acquired due to their predisposition for high corticaland high emotional arousal, which facilitates very rapid and strong anxiety conditioning.
There are four possible combinations of high and low E and N: Dimension Position
ARAS Arousal
VB Activation
Siever and Frucht (1997) have proposed a two-factor model relating neurotransmitters to behavioral tendencies. This model looks at the interaction effects of norepinephrine and serotonin.
Norepinephrine stimulates the focus of attention toward the external environment. This effect isexaggerated when one is over-reactive to norepinephrine. If one is under-reactive to norepinephrinethe focus of attention is engaged with self or on internal states. Norepinephrine appears to be apossible contributor to any explanation for the extroversion trait. Serotonin suppresses impulses and responses to stimuli. When one is under-reactive to serotonin, impulses and behavior are disinhibitedand more difficult to control. When one is over-reactive to serotonin, impulses and behavior areinhibited and control is excessive. Serotonin appears to be a possible contributor to an explanationfor the neuroticism trait.
Eysenck thinks that a strict conditioning model based on respondent or even on an operant model cannot explain satisfactorily why neurotic symptoms resist change in the face of punishingconsequences. He now thinks that an adequate model of neurosis must include the possibility thatsome neurotic anxieties and fears are based on an inherited sensitivity to certain noxious objects orevents. Conditioned neurotic fears rooted in any of these innate “survival” phobias would not readilyobey the ordinary “laws” of learning, including extinction. Neurotics persist in self-defeatingbehavior because the negative consequences of their symptoms and the failure of dreaded outcomesto materialize cannot easily suppress or extinguish fears that have roots in evolutionary survivalmechanisms. Hamer and Copeland (1998) also suggest that neurotic traits may exist and persistbecause of the survival value they have conveyed over the course of evolution. Eysenck hypothesizesthat neurotic introverts would be the most susceptible, whereas the normal extrovert would be theleast susceptible to developing neurotic symptoms.
Eysenck thinks P is mediated by a polygenic temperament source trait. Polygenic means that a large number of genes, each of whose individual effect is small, may be inherited by a person whowill evidence a high degree of the trait they embody. Each of these “small effect” genes is additive,so that the total number inherited determines the degree of Psychoticism within the personality.
Eysenck’s polygenic hypothesis receives some support in research cited by Siever and Frucht (1997)on the concordance for aggression between fraternal and identical twins that suggests multiple geneticfactors rather than a single dominant gene contributes to aggressive behavior. Another group ofgenes, fewer in number than the first group and having “large effects,” determine the probability thata person will not only evidence the Psychoticism trait but will also suffer a fully developed psychosis.
The person who is high on P has inherited a vulnerability to psychotic disorder but may not in fact succumb to a psychotic illness. Instead a person who embodies a large number to the traits associatedwith P and who is also high on N and E may develop a pattern of antisocial and aggressive behavior.
Aggressive behavior is associated with under arousal because a person with a relatively nonreactivenervous system does not condition or acquire the anxiety-based restraints of conscience as readily asdo people with more highly aroused nervous systems. Eysenck also proposes that high androgen levels have the effect of lowering the arousal levels in the brain’s reticular system and contributes to a predisposition for aggression. The evidence forthis hypothesis is tentative and controversial. A behavioral biologist (Sapolsky, 1997) points out thatone of the androgens, testosterone, is frequently suggested as a cause of aggressive behavior.
According to Sapolsky, the research evidence does not favor testosterone as a cause of aggression.
Rather the evidence suggests that testosterone affects the intensity of aggressive responses that arealready present. The aggression appears to be mediated by neuronal signals from the amygdala tothe hypothalamus. Testosterone does not produce these signals but sensitivity to it does affect thestrength or intensity of the signals. Further, behavioral geneticists at the National Institute of Health (Hamer & Copeland, 1998) report that aggression is facilitated by low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Genetic factors,as discussed earlier, play a role in serotonin mediated behavior through differences in the efficiencyof the serotonin transporter. However, Hamer and Copeland state that the level of serotonin is alsoaffected by environmental conditions. Specifically, they indicate that aversive and abusiveenvironments or low social status tend to diminish serotonin production. Thus, an individual who haselevated levels of testosterone and lowered levels of serotonin and who has learned aggressivebehavior as an adaptive response to his or her environment would be at greatest risk for exhibitingchronic antisocial and aggressive behavior.
Siever and Frucht (1997) also discuss the role of the cerebral cortex and the amygdala in regulating aggression. They point-out that animal research demonstrates that antisocial andaggressive behavior are associated with a low density of serotonin receptors in the cerebral cortexand in the amygdala. The cerebral cortex plays a role in regulating social behavior and decisionmaking. A low density of serotonin receptors in this important brain area would tend to disinhibitantisocial behavior and emotional impulses. A low density of serotonin receptors in the amygdalamay also explain Salpolsky’s earlier point about the variable reactivity of the amygdala totestosterone. That is, with a low density of serotonin receptors in the amygdala one would expecteda less inhibited response to a stimulative hormone like testosterone.
The role of environment in antisocial and aggressive behavior has also been discussed by a personality psychologist (Lykken, 1995). Lykken makes an important distinction between what hecalls a sociopath and a psychopath. In the former case, he suggests that sociopaths are almostentirely the product of inadequate socialization. Inadequate parenting is at the root of thisinadequate socialization and it tends to be neglectful of a child’s needs, aversive, and abusive. Suchparenting is also, according to Lykken, often conducted by individuals of low social status. A status which is also conferred on their children. Such children are at great risk for developing a chronicpattern of antisocial behavior. In the latter case, he suggests that psychopaths are largely the productof a biological predisposition. A child with a difficult temperament will be resistant to socializationand not all parents will be up to the task. Lykken suggests that even adequate parents can fail withthis type of child. He argues that such a child can be properly socialized and need not become apsychopath but it takes very competent parents committed to making the effort. Combine this typeof child with bad parenting and one has the worst possible combination.
Eysenck argues that psychopaths are high on his P, E, and N Scales and are of two types. The first type is the primary psychopath and is the classic antisocial personality. The primary psychopathevidences little conscience, anxiety or guilt, poor judgment, and intense impulsivity. In this type, thelevel of P is predicted to be higher than the level of N. The secondary psychopath may engage inantisocial behavior but is highly conflicted and anxious about his or her conduct. In the secondarytype the level of N is predicted to be higher than the level of P. Both types, however, are predictedto be high on E.
Being high E, the psychopath is under aroused, sensation-seeking, not easily conditioned, and lacks the restraints of conscience that are normally acquired through conditioning; and Being high N, the psychopath evidences moody, irrational, and intensely emotionalbehavior; and Being high P, the psychopath will lack empathy for other people, appear egocentric andimpulsive, acting with poor judgment to gratify his or her needs.
James Wakefield (1979) discusses Eysenck’s three dimensions and their educational implications in his book Using Personality to Individualize Instruction. In his discussion of thedimensions, he covers each relative to behavior, central nervous system (CNS) arousal, learning,discipline, and achievement. The details of that discussion are too involved to cover here but are wellworth reading. A summary of his recommendations for each dimension is included in this text. Afuller discussion of these recommendations can be found in his book. Further, Wakefield has workedout twelve of the possible combination scores that a student might get on the Eysenck instruments(see Table 1.3) and offers descriptions of and suggestions for working with students having thesepersonality (temperament) patterns. Table 1.3
Eysenck’s P, E, and N combinations with descriptive labels from James Wakefield (1979).
PEN Combinations
Descriptive Labels
1. Typical Profile (Low or Avg P, Avg E, Low or Avg N)
This profile represents the majority of students. Because there is a considerable amount of variability on the PEN scales, within the normal range, these students represent a diverse group. Thecloser to a deviant score on any one of the PEN scales or EPQ profiles an individual student is, themore appropriate the suggestions for students deviant on that scale or with that profile.
These students are usually fairly well adjusted and perform up to their capacity in school.
When they exhibit problem behaviors in school there is usually something in the home or schoolenvironment that makes these problem behaviors adaptive. Once the environmental influences arecorrected their behavior will usually correct or respond well to corrective interventions. As a result,students with the Typical Profile, who develop behavior problems, have a good prognosis. Whenthese students have average to superior intelligence, they usually perform well in school and exhibitfew problems. When these students have below average intelligence or a specific disability, they willperform less well and are more prone to develop behavior problems, especially, if they are pushedbeyond their ability and have a lot of failure experiences, their motivation or effort is questioned, ortheir performance is ridiculed.
2. Sociable and Uninhibited Profile (Low or Avg P, High E, Low or Avg N)
These students are usually fairly well adjusted and seldom develop emotional or behavioral problems. In fact, they may appear better adjusted than students with a Typical Profile. They do havea tendency to talk loudly and to respond impulsively.
3. Shy and Inhibited Profile (Low or Avg P, Low E, Low or Avg N)
These students are usually fairly well adjusted with few emotional or behavioral problems.
They do not, however, respond well to being the center of attention, particularly unexpectedly orfrequently. Teachers often mistake this type of student for a student with emotional problems.
4. Emotionally Over-reactive Profile (Low or Avg P, Avg E, High N,)
These students have a high incidence of emotional problems, e.g., phobias. They seldom show disruptive behavior, but may have emotional outbursts in stressful or threatening situations.
Their behavior is usually easy to control and may become over-controlled.
5. Hyperactive Profile (Low or Avg P, High E, High N)
These students are outgoing and uninhibited as well as anxious and over reactive. These students will often be diagnosed with learning disabilities. These students’ performance improveswhen aroused by stimulating materials and activities or by stimulant drugs but may exhibit anemotional over reaction. Thus, you should stimulate these students with materials and social interaction rather than emotional stimulation.
6. Anxious Profile (Low or Avg P, Low E, High N)
These students are emotionally over reactive, but usually are quiet and extremely cautious.
They are often too aroused to perform well in school and anything that reduces their anxiety willimprove their performance. They frequently try to avoid things that most children find enjoyable andare particularly susceptible to school phobia. Because of their quiet reserved demeanor, teachersoften do not recognize that they need special attention.
7. Disruptive and Aggressive Profile (High P, Avg E, Low or Avg N)
These students are likely to exhibit disruptive behaviors in the classroom. They may also try to dominate classmates through aggressive behavior. They are difficult to control through eitherreward or punishment and often engage in sensation seeking behavior. Sometimes a skillful teachercan use their sensation seeking behavior to enhance academic performance. Students with this profilewho have above average intelligence can be very creative but even so will not be pleasant to workwith. Students with this profile who are of lower intelligence have more difficulty directing theirbehavior toward productive ends.
8. Extremely Impulsive Profile (High P, High E, Low or Avg N)
These students’ impulsive behavior is often directed toward other people and is often violent.
These students will work in order to be stimulated. Stimulation is useful both during work andfollowing work in order to get optimal performance. They respond better to rewards thanpunishment but don’t respond well to either.
9. Withdrawn and Hostile Profile (High P, Low E, Low or Avg N)
The hostile behavior in these students is usually directed at things rather than people.
Vandalism is more common that fighting. Their behavior is likely to be unpredictable and to swingbetween impulsive and cautious responding both of which are detrimental to school performance.
Thus, the recommendations for High P and Low E may at times be contradictory and you must becareful when employing recommendations from one area that you don’t push the student to the otherextreme. Stimulation during work periods will usually interfere with their performance. However,stimulation following work, as a reward, will increase the amount and quality of future work. Oncethey become stimulated, it is necessary to get them settled down before any they can productivelyresume work. The best times for stimulating activities is during breaks, lunch, recess or at the endof the day. Students with this profile who have above average intelligence can be very creative,particularly in the areas of science and technology. Even so, they will not be pleasant to work with.
Students with this profile who are of lower intelligence have more difficulty directing their behaviortoward productive ends.
10. Frequently Agitated Profile (High P, Avg E, High N)
These students typically have a combination of emotional and behavioral problems. They often engage in sensation seeking activities without regard for consequences. They also often overreact to the emotional stimulation that results from their activities. This feedback keeps them in analmost continuous state of over stimulation and anxiety. They usually don’t do well academically andoften don’t have the foresight to successfully commit serious misdeeds. You must constantly workto avoid over stimulating these students or allow them to over stimulate themselves. Students withthis profile who have above average intelligence can be very creative, particularly in the area of thearts. Even so, they will not be pleasant to work with. Students with this profile who are of lowerintelligence have more difficulty directing their behavior toward productive ends.
11. Very Disruptive and Aggressive Profile (High P, High E, High N)
These students are the most disruptive of all students. Techniques used to stimulate students high on E and to reward students high on P can be used as long as they don’t involve stressful oremotional components. A teacher talking loudly or yelling at one of these students is likely toproduce an emotional over reaction and physical aggression, probably directed at the teacher.
Managing the behavior of this highly unusual type of student requires a constant effort. Students withthis profile who have above average intelligence can be very creative, particularly in the area of thearts. Even so, they will not be pleasant to work with. Students with this profile who are of lowerintelligence have more difficulty directing their behavior toward productive ends and is the profilewith the worst prognosis . Criminal behavior is highly likely for a student with this profile who is ofaverage to lower intelligence.
12. Very Anxious and Agitated Profile (High P, Low E, High N)
These students are likely to be more fearful and anxious and likely to be less openly aggressive than students in Profile Ten. More attention should be given to reducing anxiety than to controllingaggression. Their behavior is often erratic, swinging between emotional outburst and withdrawal,and ineffective. Stimulation during work should be avoided even as a consequence for good workbecause they may become too aroused (stimulated) for optimal performance.
Here are some general suggestions, from Wakefield, for working with students having high or low scores on the Eysenck instruments. The suggestions are for each of the three trait scales andare sub-divided along several dimensions of concern. The suggestions generally apply to studentshigh (1+ standard deviation above the mean) and low (-1 standard deviation below the mean) alonga single dimension. One must consider interaction effects when a student is extreme on more thanone of the three dimensions. The suggestions may also be helpful for students who score at the highor low end of the normal range.
E Scale: Students who are low E tend to work slowly and make few errors. Students who
are high E tend to work quickly and make careless errors. A low E student will appear to be verymotivated and attentive on most tasks and will persist at them. A high E student will appear under-motivated and easily distractible and will get easily bored with most tasks.
N Scale: Students who are low N tend to have very mild or no reaction to emotional stimuli.
They are unlikely to become upset and if they do will quickly recover. High N students are verysensitive to emotional stimuli, have strong reactions to them, get upset easily and are slow to calmdown. High N students will often attempt to avoid situations that are apt to be emotionally charged.
P Scale: Students who are high P are often solitary and viewed as unsocialized. Such
students frequently like odd and unusual things and have a marked disregard for danger. They alsotend to be defiant and aggressive. Low P students are usually very sociable, friendly and seldomexhibit hostility or aggression. Unlike the high P student, low P students are not very susceptible toserious psychological disorders.
E Scale: Students who are low E perform more poorly under external stress, while students
who are high E improve their performance when under external stress (e.g., time limits). Arousalfrom stress relative to the E trait is primarily related to external stimulation, e.g., noise and cognitivechallenge, e.g., problem-solving. The optimal level of arousal for these two types of students is alsoinfluenced by task difficulty. The optimal level of arousal for each goes up for easy tasks and downfor difficult tasks. However, the relative difference will remain the same. That is, on an easy task ahigh E student's optimal level of arousal will be higher than on a difficult task but will be higher inboth cases than for a low E student.
N Scale: Students high on the N trait tend to be more easily aroused by emotional stimuli and
often perform poorly on tasks because they are overly aroused or motivated. On the other hand, astudent who is low on the N trait often performs poorly on tasks, as well, but for the oppositereason. That is, they are insufficiently aroused or under-motivated. Students high or low on Nrespond to external stress in about the same way as do students high or low on the E trait. That is,external pressure can be used to enhance performance in low N students, but will further erode theperformance of high N students. Task difficultly also interacts with the N trait. A relatively higharousal level is best for easy tasks and relatively low arousal is best for difficult tasks. High Nstudents are particularly susceptible to "test anxiety" and the importance of tests should be downplayed with them.
P Scale: High P students find high levels of stimulation enjoyable and are prone to engage
in exciting and dangerous activities without regard for the potential consequences. Such a studentmay seek confrontations and even punishment simply for the stimulation value such situations hold.
Students low on the P trait do not find high levels of stimulation particularly enjoyable and thereforewill tend to less stimulating kinds of activities and will have greater regard for the potentialconsequences of their behavior. E Scale: High E students tend to learn major points that are emphasized better than minor
points, while low E students will learn both types of material. High E students learn best withcontinuous reinforcement or feedback, while low E students perform best under conditions ofintermittent reinforcement or feedback. Recall of learned material also varies for these two types ofstudents. High E students recall material better after a short delay between learning and testing, whilelow E students recall material better immediately following learning or after a long delay. Typically,high E students do better in elementary school, while low E students do better in high school.
N Scale: Low N students tend to approach learning in an exploratory style while high N
students approach learning in a more rigid and compulsive manner. High N students can study forlong periods on a regular basis, while low N students study best for shorter periods broken up byother activities. Low N students do better in elementary school and high N students in high school.
P Scale: Students high on the P trait do not learn as easily from experience as low P students
and may be characterized at times as being "hard headed." High P students also have more difficultymaintaining attention and concentrating in learning situations and tend to respond impulsively. Thesestudents appear to be more original in their thinking and may be labeled creative. When high P iscoupled with above average intelligence it tends to incline the student toward productive endeavors.
When high P is associated with average to below average intelligence, this combination can inclinea student toward destructive activities. Low P students do better in school at all levels than high Pstudents. Teachers find low P students more "teachable" and less troublesome than high P studentseven when the high P student is more intelligent and original than his or her low P counterparts. E Scale: Students at both extremes on the E trait respond to reward and punishment.
However, low E students are more sensitive to punishment and threats of punishment, while high Estudents are more sensitive to rewards and reminders about potential rewards that are available. Oneshould not adopt one strategy or the other with students who are at different extremes on the E trait.
Rather, one should use both approaches but shift the emphasis a bit depending of the type of student.
N Scale: High N students tend to be more responsive to punishment and low N students to
reinforcement. Both reward and punishment should be low key for the high N student. Both rewardand punishment need to be somewhat more intense to affect low N students and less intense for highN students. One must pay attention to how reward and punishment are used with students at bothends of this dimension. Failure to differentiate may lead to some students being over-controlled andsome who are unruly.
P Scale: Punishment and emotional displays are often counterproductive with high P
students. That is, not only may such responses fail to inhibit their behavior, it may actually stimulatethe misbehavior. Unlike their low P counterparts these students tend to be both disruptive anddifficult to discipline. Highly structured environments employing both mild reward and punishmentshave the best chance of managing the behavior of high P students.
Select a psychoactive medication that you have, have had or might have a studenttaking while in your class. Write a brief review of this medication based on the description for it in the Physician's Desk Reference.
Complete a Medication Data form or modify this form for Allergy Data and complete iton a real or hypothetical child.
Obtain and complete a temperament scale on a student in your class (or a child that you knowwell).
Which response tendencies or traits are high and which are low? Does the student fit any of the patterns? Which response tendencies are potentially useful? How can they be used? Which response tendencies are potentially troublesome? How might they betroublesome? What could you do to minimize these potential problems? Which of Wakefield's suggestions for Eysenck's traits might be applied to Chess andThomas' temperament patterns? Obtain and complete the Junior EPQ on a student in your class (or a child that you know).
Which personality traits are high and which are low? Does the student fit any of the Wakefield patterns? Which personality traits are potentially useful? How can they be used? Which personality traits are potentially troublesome? How might they be troublesome? What could you do to minimize these potential problems? Select one of the personality dimension combinations from Wakefield that have extremescores on two different dimensions. Using the guidelines provided for each dimension,work out what you think the combined implications are for the profile selected.
Carey, W., & McDevitt, S. (1995). Coping with children’s temperament: a guide for professionals. New York: Basic Books.
Chess, S., & Thomas, A. (1991). Temperament. In M. Lewis (Ed.), Childhood and adolescent psychiatry: A comprehensive textbook. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.
Chess, S., & Thomas, A. (1987). Origins and evolution of behavior disorders: From infancy to early adult life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Chess, S., & Thomas, A. (1986). Temperament in clinical practice. New York: Guilford Corulla, W. (1990). A revised version of the Psychoticism scale for children. Personality and Individual Differences, 11(1), 65-76.
Eysenck, H. J. (1967). The biological basis of personality. Springfield, MO: Charles C.
Eysenck, H. J. (1981). A model for personality. New York: Springer.
Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Dimensions of personality: the biosocial approach to personality.
In J. Strelau and A. Angleitner (Eds.), Explorations in temperament: International perspectives ontheory and measurement (pp. 87-103). London: Plenum.
Eysenck, H. J., & Eysenck, S. B. G. (1975). Eysenck personality questionnaire. San Diego: Educational and Industrial Testing Service.
Eysenck, H. J., & Eysenck, S. B. G. (1993). Eysenck personality questionnaire - Revised. San Diego: Educational and Industrial Testing Service.
Forness, S., Sweeney, D., & Toy, K. (1996). Psychopharmacologic medications: what teachers need to know. Beyond Behavior, 7(2), 4-12.
Hamer, D., & Copeland, P. (1998). Living with our genes. New York: Doubleday.
Keogh, B., Pullis, M., & Cadwell, J. (1982). A short form of the Teacher Temperament Questionnaire. Journal of Educational Measurement, 19(4), 323-328.
Lykken, D. (1995). The antisocial personalities. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Martin, R. (1994). Child temperament and common problems in schooling: Hypotheses about causal connections. Journal of School Psychology, 32(2), 119-134.
Martin, R. (1992). Child temperament effects on special education: Process and outcome. Medical Economics Company (1997). Physicians’ desk reference. Montvale, NJ: Author.
Monte, C. (1995). Beneath the mask (5th ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.
Orth, L., & Martin, R. (1994). Interactive effects of student temperament and instruction method on classroom behavior and achievement. Journal of School Psychology, 32(2), 149-166.
Rapp, D. (1980). Allergies and your family. New York: Sterling Publishing.
Sapolsky, R. (1997). The trouble with testosterone. New York: Scribner.
Siever, L., & Frucht, W. (1997). The new view of self: how genes and neurotransmitters shape your mind, your personality, and your mental health. New York: MacMillan.
Wakefield, J. A. (1979). Using personality to individualize instruction. San Diego, CA:


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