Temperament in children is defined as an individual style of behavior characterized by specific ways of responding to internal and external stimuli. Children develop temperament since being at least two months old, displaying different types of reactions and preferences to specific activities (Prokasky et al., 2017). Some infants demonstrate unusual amounts of activity, flailing their arms and legs and making noises. Others act in a tranquil and apathetic way, seemingly uninterested in the surrounding environment. Some infants are accepting of strangers, whereas others become timid or aggressive. Crying pitches and their frequency also depend on temperament. All of these traits can be used to illustrate a child’s temperament.
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Psychologists identify three types of temperament in children (Prokasky et al., 2017):
- Easy. This type of temperament describes a child who is frequently in a positive mood. They adapt to new experiences quickly and are capable of establishing routines.
- Difficult. This child is typically upset and is likely to cry a lot. They reject new experiences and sees routines as a threat to their autonomy.
- Slow to warm up. Has a low mood intensity, which means that they are unlikely to display any strong positive or negative emotions. They are also slow at adapting to new experiences.
As it is possible to see, each of the temperament types would require a different approach based on behavioral understanding. Children with easy temperaments, while quick to learn and adapt to new experiences, should be protected from negative influences early on. Difficult children would require positive reinforcement in order to ensure good behavior and learning progression. Infants that are slow to warm up will require time and effort to familiarize themselves with new routines and environments.
A child’s temperament can shape family life during the first years of their lives and would require specific knowledge to help support their needs (Prokasky et al., 2017). For example, a slow to warm up a child may act apathetically to external stimuli, which could be confused for calmness and docility. As a result, parents may unwittingly neglect the child’s development needs. An easy child, which is open to new knowledge and experiences, might cause trouble by exploring every inch of the house and put themselves in danger by reaching towards objects that they should not touch. Parents should be aware of this tendency and ensure that the child is always supervised and protected from danger. Finally, a difficult child would constantly cause distress by crying loudly, demanding food, and staying awake during times when others are asleep. This could significantly disrupt their parents’ daily patterns in order to care for the child. The recommended solution would require caring for the child in shifts and potentially hiring external help should the working schedules could not be fully aligned with child-caring duties.
Numerous supporting organizations are available to young parents. Local healthcare centers offer training on basic daily routines and the establishment of safe spaces for infants (Prokasky et al., 2017). There are also private psychological courses that deal with stress, child handling, and family guidance. Kindergartens are available from the age of five, alleviating much of the pressure during the daytime. Lastly, there are websites dedicated to caring for children in infancy, which offer educational instructions based on the child’s temperament type.
To summarize, the infant’s type of behavior informs the strategies of development applied to them. Parents must be aware of what their child is like in order to ensure that appropriate stimuli are being used. Without appropriate classification, mistakes are bound to be made, which would slow down a child’s development and cause unnecessary distress in the family. The early childhood years are growing years that form the foundation for later learning and a balanced personality.
Prokasky, A., Rudasill, K., Molfese, V. J., Putnam, S., Gartstein, M., & Rothbart, M. (2017). Identifying child temperament types using cluster analysis in three samples. Journal of Research in Personality, 67, 190-201.
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