• A-Z
  • Directory
  • myUVM
  • Loading search...

Home – Child Mental Health Blog

Origins of Personality course syllabus

Posted: March 21st, 2017 by David Rettew

(NOTE:  This syllabus is subject to change and should not be considered final across the entire length of the course.  Updates will be posted)


Origins of Personality


Spring 2017

Tuesday and Thursdays 2:50 to 4:05


University of Vermont

Larner College of Medicine


Perkins Building 107




Instructors:                                                                                   Teaching Assistant:


David C. Rettew, MD                                                               Rachel White

Office: 802-847-4563                                                                RachelM.White@uvm.edu

Email: david.rettew@med.uvm.edu

Office Hours: By appointment



Course Description:


Welcome to Origins of Personality!  This course will study personality from a developmental perspective, analyzing the many types of influences that contribute to our individual differences.  Temperament is often considered to be the “raw materials” of personality that acts and is acted upon by other areas such as parenting practices, early experiences, peers, nutrition, and many others.  This course will explore core concepts related to child temperament and focus on how these early traits interact with the environment to form an individual’s basic personality structure.


Location:  Perkins 107 (you need to go up some stairs to find the classroom)




  1. Gain fluency with the foundational concepts and vocabulary of personality and temperament science.


  1. Develop facility in analyzing and interpreting articles from the scientific and popular literature that attempt to offer insights in personality formation.


  1. Ability to apply knowledge and critical thinking to current debates and controversies related to development of optimal and maladaptive traits.




Required Texts:

  • Rettew D. (2013). Child Temperament: New Thinking About the Boundaries Between Traits and Illness. New York: WW Norton.
  • McAdams DP (2015). The Art and Science of Personality Development. New York: Guildford Press.




The final grade for the course will be based upon a possible total of 250pts that can be earned through attendance & participation, quizzes, response papers, a student presentation, and the final exam.   The proportion of point allocated for each part is described below.


  • Attendance and Participation (20% of final grade – up to 50 points)
    • For each of the 25 class session (not including things like the final exam, the intro session, etc.), each student will be able to earn up to 2 points. One point will be given for full attendance and another for positive contribution to the discussions and exercises.  Points can be deducted for things like nonattendance, being late or leaving early, negative comments, lack of preparation,  misusing electronics during class (see electronics policy), or other behaviors at the discretion of instructor.  For major illnesses or events which require you to miss class, please email the instructor prior to class time if you want to request an excused absence but these should be reserved for major events.  The instructor reserves the right to require proof for the reason behind the absence (e.g. a doctor’s note).


  • Response Papers and Presentation: (10% of grade for each assignment: 30% total – 25 points for each assignment)
    • There will be 2 response papers and 1 presentation each worth 10% of the final grade over the course of the class. The length of the papers will not exceed 1000 words and will expand upon the material presented in the lectures.  The papers will be graded based on 1) the quality and mastery of ideas that are presented, 2) writing quality and organization, and 3) choice and use of references for content as well as organization and writing quality.  For the presentation, the class will be divided into groups of three and each group will make a 15 minute in-class presentation on a personality development topic of your choice.  These presentations will take place in April.


  • (5% of grade for each of 4 quizzes for total of 20% of grade – 12 or 13 points per quiz to total to 50 points)
    • Approximately every two weeks or after every 4-5 classes, a multiple choice and short answer quiz will be given at the start of class that covers those classes and the required readings. A total of 5 quizzes will be given and the quiz with the lowest score will be dropped.  There will be no makeups for the quizzes and the answers will be discussed right after the quiz is taken.  Consequently, if you miss class on a quiz day, then that will be the quiz score that is dropped.



  • Final Exam: (30% of final grade – 75 points)
    • This exam will be given on the last day of class and will cover material presented throughout the course. It will consist of multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions based upon the lecture material and the required readings.


  • Final Grades will be assigned as follows
    • A+ >0%
    • A = 93.0 to 96.9%
    • A- = 90.0 to 92.9%
    • B+ = 87.0 to 89.9%
    • B = 83.0 to 86.9%
    • B- = 80.0 to 82.9%
    • C+ = 77.0 to 79.9%
    • C = 73.0 to 76.9%
    • C- = 70.0 to 72.9%
    • D+ = 67.0 to 69.9%
    • D = 63.0 to 66.9%
    • D- = 60.0 to 62.9%
    • F < 60%







Class Schedule


Date Topic Readings Due for that Day
  Segment 1:  Basics of Personality  
Jan 17 Introduction*

Exercise: Personality Self-Assessment

Jan 19 Core Dimensions and Types

Exercise: Scoring and Discussion of NEO

McAdams: Prologue (p1-11)

Rettew:  Chapter 2

Jan 24 Negative and Positive Emotionality

Exercise:  Items for Personality Scale

McAdams:  Chapter 2


Jan 26 Regulation and Effortful Control

Exercise:  Rating Child Temperament

McAdams: Chapter 3


Jan 31 Features of Temperament

Exercise: Quiz 1

Rettew:  Chapter 3
Feb 2 History of Temperament and Personality

Exercise:  Videos of major figures


Rettew:  Chapter 1


Feb 7 Personality Across Development

Exercise: NEO-AC Graph

Response Paper #1 due 2/5 11:59pm

McAdams:  Chapter 4
Feb 9 Temperament in Animals

Exercise: Animal models

Gosling and John article
Feb 14 Brain Anatomy and Activity of Traits

Exercise:  Quiz 2

Rettew:  Chapter 4


Feb 16 Agents and Authors

Exercise:  Metaphor of concept

McAdams:  Chapters 5 & 8
Segment 2:  Influences of Temperament and Personality
Feb 21 Genetics, the Environment and Their Inter-relations

Exercise:  Own examples of GE interplay

Review section from McAdams Ch 4 (pg 111 – 117) and Rettew Chapter 4
Feb 23 Attachment

Exercise:  Rating attachment status

Zeanah and Fox Article
Feb 28 The Prenatal Environment and Temperament

Exercise:  Quiz 3


Response Paper #2 due 3/5 11:59pm

Mar 9 Drugs and Personality – Rachel White MacLean article
Mar 21 Parenting Influences #1: General

Discussion:  What general strategy is best?

Rettew:  Chapter 8
Mar 23 Parenting Influences #2: Specific Issues

Exercise:  TBA

Mar 28 Cultural Influences

Exercise:  TBA

Article:  Culture, Temperament, and the “Difficult” Child
Mar 30 Trauma and Early Experience

Exercise:  Policy and Programs

Article:  From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts – Intro, Chapter 1, Chapter 2
Apr 4 Other Influences on Personality

Exercise:  Quiz 4

Apr 6 Student Presentations #1 None
Apr 11 Student Presentations #1 None
Apr 13 Student Presentations #2 None
Segment 3:  Special Topics in Personality Development
Apr 18 Boundaries with Psychiatric Disorders

Exercise:  Depression and Temperament

Rettew:  Chapters 5 & 6
Apr 20  
Apr 25 Changing Personality with Medications

Exercise:  Quiz 5

Rettew:  Chapter 10
Apr 27 Topic TBA
May 2 Review Session*
May 4 Final Exam In Class*



*Designates class in which attendance will NOT count towards attendance grade






Course Behavior


The goal is to have a lively and interactive environment for this course.  To accomplish this, students need to be prepared and attentive during class and be willing to contribute positively to the discussions and questions that come up.  Given that some personal information will be discussed, it is expected that this material be treated with respect.


Electronic policy.  Student may bring a laptop or other electronic device to class to facilitate their learning and taking notes.  However, students should not be using their phone or other device for non-class related material such as checking email or texting.  Doing so will result in the loss of one of two class attendance and participation points for that day.  If a call, text, or email is urgent, you can excuse yourself briefly from class to attend to it and no penalty will result unless this privilege is overused.


Academic Integrity


All students at UVM follow an honor code and rules of conduct and policies of academic integrity (http://www.uvm.edu/~dledford/academicintegrity.pdf). Students violate academic integrity when they: (1) cheat on exams; (2) submit work that is not their original work; (3) submit the same work from two different courses without permission from their professors; (4) receive help on a take-home exam without the knowledge of their professor; or (5) plagiarize. Plagiarism occurs when students do not properly give credit when reporting information or ideas from papers, documents, presentations, musical scores, the internet or other materials, and thus attribute others’ work and ideas as their own. Examples of plagiarism include: (1) copying verbatim from a book, article, presentation, or other documents, without providing a proper attribution, citation or quotation; (2) paraphrasing an article, chapter, presentation or other materials without giving attribution or citation, or providing quotation marks; (3) copying from a classmate or allowing a classmate to copy from you, or submitting another student’s work with your name on it; (4) collaborating between two of more students without the professor’s permission, and then submitting the paper individually; (5) purchasing an assignment or paper, and submitting it as original work.


Students are expected to submit original work and ideas for all assignments, and to follow the rules of conduct and policies of the honor code and academic integrity. Students can avoid plagiarism by: (1) providing citations and attributions for information and ideas drawn from outsides sources and (2) submitting original work. Details on how to cite articles and others’ work are provided on the Course Site (see tips on the American Psychological Association’s referencing guidelines under “Resources”). If you have any questions regarding academic integrity and proper attribution of others’ work, please set up an appointment with your professor. In the event that a student violates academic integrity or plagiarizes, the professor will follow the rules and policies set forth by UVMIf any violations occur, as per the University’s policies, this may result in a lower grade, failure in the course, or further sanctions. For more information on Academic Integrity and the Honor Code, please see: http://www.uvm.edu/~dledford/academicintegrity.pdf





Contact Us ©2010 The University of Vermont – Burlington, VT 05405 – (802) 656-3131
Skip to toolbar