About the Australian Temperament Project

The Australian Temperament Project (ATP) is a longitudinal study of the psychosocial development of a large and representative sample of Australian children born in the state of Victoria, Australia between September 1982 and January 1983.

Aim of the study

The study aims to trace the pathways to psychosocial adjustment and maladjustment across the lifespan, and to investigate the contribution of personal, family and environmental factors to development and wellbeing.


A major theme throughout has been the influence of an individual's temperament on his/her emotional and behavioural adjustment. The broad issues addressed include:

Sample and data collection

The initial sample comprised 2443 families from urban and rural areas of the state. Approximately two-thirds of the families are still participating in the study after 30 years.

Sixteen waves of data have been collected from 4-8 months to 31-32 years of age. Data have predominantly been collected via mail surveys, although study members have been given the additional option of completing the survey online in recent waves.

The first four waves of data were collected at annual intervals from infancy to 3-4 years of age. From the commencement of primary school up to 19-20 years, the data collections occurred at two yearly intervals, with an additional assessment completed during the first year of secondary school in order to track wellbeing over this important developmental transition. Since early adulthood, there has been a four-year gap between the data collections (at 19-20 years, 23-24 years, 27-28 years and 31-32 years).


Parents, Maternal and Child Health nurses, primary school teachers, and from the age of 11 years, the children themselves, have completed questionnaires about the young people's development and wellbeing. These include temperament, behavioural and school adjustment, substance use, antisocial behaviour, depression, health, social competence, civic mindedness and engagement, peer relationships, family functioning, parenting style and family environment. There have also been a number of smaller, in-depth studies addressing specific developmental and clinical themes in which sub-samples of families have been visited at home and the children individually assessed.

The researchers

The ATP began as a collaboration between psychologists at La Trobe University and paediatricians at the Royal Children’s Hospital. Over time the collaboration has expanded to include the University of Melbourne, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Murdoch Childrens Research Insititute and Deakin University. We have also partnered with different organisations such as the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, the Transport Accident Commission of Victoria, Crime Prevention Victoria, and researchers at other universities to investigate specific issues. Numerous honours and post-graduate students have also conducted research on the ATP data.

Project Manager

Dr Primrose Letcher

Scientific Director

Professor Craig Olsson


Founding Investigators