- Case discussion
- Temperament Personality and Developmental Psychobiology – focus on pages 313-321
- Temperament in infancy and behavioral and emotional problems at age 5.5 – PLOS One 2017
- Great resources for parents on temperament rating scales here and a helpful short book
- What is the definition of temperament and its underlying theory? Temperament is a little challenging conceptually, but can be generally thought of as the ways we self-regulate and react in different situations. Temperament is associated with both emotions and behavior. It emerges early in life, is largely influenced by genetics, and mostly stable over our lifetime. We know temperament can affect developmental pathways and be associated with future psychopathology, but it has been difficult to agree on a consistent definition and exactly how this influences children’s behavior and future.
- How many different temperament types are there? There are 10 main temperament traits generally assessed in childhood (adaptabillity, approach, sensory sensitivity, reactivity, distractibility, persistence, mood, regularity and emotional sensitivity). There are 3 main temperament clusters in childhood: “easy” children, “slow to warm up” and “difficult,” based on combinations of traits. Easy children are, well, easy. “Slow to warm up” kids tend to be more careful, to have low adaptability to new situations, and to have difficulty separating from parents. “Difficult” children may be more irritable or fearful, have low adaptability and short attention span, have disordered sleep-wake-eat cycles, and may respond more intensely. I really love framing this more positively as “spirited” to characterize the “difficult” temperament clusters. The book “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy is a classic and so helpful when parenting a child that is more temperamentally challenging.
- How does parenting interact with temperament? We want to use labels carefully to help parents recognize that some children are more prone to having certain behavior/difficult reactions. This is not because they want to make life hard, but may just be how they are wired. Having parented a “slow to warm up” child through toddler years, I can say that it really did help me to learn about temperaments to be more empathic. We can help parents understand it’s not necessarily their fault when their child is easily upset, and also that sometimes a temperament mismatch between parents and children affects their interactions.
- How can we use concepts of temperament to discuss parental concerns? It’s helpful to use open-ended questions to explore concerns and give parents a “pause” moment to understand their child’s perspective, such as “What do you think may be going on with her/him when you see this behavior? How do you think s/he is feeling?” Also exploring how parents may be reacting/ feeling to help you understand their perspective / temperament. Simply pausing before offering advice may allow parents insight into their child’s and their own reactions, and help us provide better guidance and reflections.