Temperament, childhood illness burden, and illness behavior in early adulthood.

Objective: Illness behaviors—or responses to bodily symptoms—predict individuals’ recovery and functioning; however, there has been little research on the early life personality antecedents of illness behavior. This study’s primary aims were to evaluate (a) childhood temperament traits (i.e., emotionality and sociability) as predictors of adult illness behaviors, independent of objective health; and (b) adult temperament traits for mediation of childhood temperament’s associations. Method: Participants included 714 (53% male; 350 adoptive family and 364 control family) children and siblings from the Colorado Adoption Project (CAP; Plomin & DeFries, 1983). Structural regression analyses evaluated paths from childhood temperament to illness behavior (i.e., somatic complaints, sick days, and medication use) at two adulthood assessments (CAP years 21 and 30). Analyses controlled for participant age, sex, family type (adoptive or control), adopted status, parent education/occupation, and middle childhood illnesses, doctor visits, and life events stress. Results: Latent illness behavior factors were established across 2 adulthood assessments. Multilevel path analyses revealed that higher emotionality (fearfulness) in adulthood—but not childhood temperament—predicted higher levels of illness behavior at both assessments. Lastly, lower emotionality-fearfulness partially mediated the effect of higher childhood sociability on adult illness behavior. Conclusions: Results suggest the importance of childhood illness experiences and adult emotionality (fearfulness) in shaping illness behavior in early adulthood. They also suggest a small, protective role of childhood sociability on reduced trait fearfulness in adulthood. These findings broaden our understanding of the prospective links between temperament and illness behavior development, suggesting distinct associations from early life illness experiences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)