Understanding Temperament Part II

1. Temperament has nine dimensions to it, which are:

Activity Level – The ratio of time spent being active versus inactive i.e. playing versus resting.

Rhythmicity – How regular a child is with her or his bodily functions i.e. sleeping, waking, hunger and eliminating waste.

Distractibility – How much the child will alter her or his behaviors due to new environmental stimuli i.e. will a child stop crying when a unique noise is made or toy is given.

Approach/Withdrawal – Does a child approach or withdraw from a new object, person, situation, food, etc….

Adaptability – How easy is it for a child to adapt to changes in her or his world i.e. sleeping or eating in a new place?

Attention Span and Persistence – For how long does a child stay engaged with an activity before switching to another one? How much persistence will a child show in order to stay with the activity?

Intensity of Reaction – What is the energy level of the child’s responses, such as crying, talking, laughing and moving about i.e. does the child laugh quietly, loudly, super loud, or normally?

Threshold of Responsiveness – How much intensity is needed in order to get a response or reaction out of the child? Will the child react to a quiet whisper, normal volume or do you need to be loud?

Quality of Mood – Is the child more apt to be upbeat, joyful, friendly or unpleasant, unfriendly, downcast?


2. Research has shown that these dimensions cluster into three typical types of children: the easy child, difficult child and slow-to-warm-up child. Keep in mind that these are not clear cut categories and some children do not fall into any of the three types. It is also important to know that no one style is better or worse than the other. Each style is simply a different way of navigating and interacting with the world. How the child’s parent(s) and environment understand and react to the child’s temperament is the pivotal part.


3. Easy Child – This child quickly establishes a regular routine with regards to sleeping and feeding. The child tends to be on the cheerful side of life; she or he is pleasant, easy to be around, smiles easily and often and can interact warmly with strangers. Finally, this child has a mild or moderate level of intensity and adapts readily to new experiences.


4. Difficult Child – This child is irregular in daily routines, having little to no consistency with regards to sleeping and feeding. The child tends to be irritable, is usually in a negative mood and tends to cry as well as have temper tantrums frequently and with little provoking. Finally, this child has a high level of intensity and is slow to adapt, withdraws from new experiences/people and takes a while to accept these new experiences/people.


5. Slow-to-Warm-Up Child – This child lies in between the easy and difficult child. The child is more inactive than either the easy or difficult child, has mildly positive or negative reactions to new experiences/people, is more low-key, has a negative mood and is slow to adjust. When given extra effort the child can and does engage and adapt.


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