The term temperament in psychology is used to refer to those facets of a person’s personality, for instance, extroversion and introversion, which are often deemed as intrinsic, rather than acquired from learning. There have been several classificatory schemes with regard to temperament but apparently, none has been approved in the field of academia. The historic perspective of temperament has it that, temperament was a section of the four humors’ theory, and it was believed that there were four temperaments.
The concept of temperament was very imperative in pre-modern psychology and was looked into by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, David W. Keirsey and Hermann Lotze (Klein 553). Temperament is assessed through certain unique behavioral profiles, with a focus on those that are easier to measure and test in early childhood.
Modern scientists have sought ways of establishing the relationship between temperament and character through the use of biological evidence. However, regardless of the fact that scientists have hypothesized that there is an association between temperament and biological factors, there have been difficulties in testing this association directly.
Parents will always observe that their children behave differently in similar situations. What may work out for one child may not work out for another. Temperament is this difference in behavior as well as in personality (Rothbart, Stephan and David 123).
Thomas and Chess have been two great researchers involved in the study of temperament through a description of nine characteristics of behavior in children. These characteristics are useful in describing children’s temperament or those stable, individual variations in activity level, self-regulation, attention and emotional reactivity (Rothbart, Stephan and David 123-125).
Personality is evaluated through an interaction of temperament traits with the surrounding environment. This interaction is very vital as it determines how a child values himself and others. Thomas, Cheese and others were the first to conduct the New York Longitudinal Study during the early 1950s in infant temperament (Rothbart 1-4). The study was on how temperamental qualities influence adjustment throughout one’s life cycle.
Thomas, Cheese and others made use of nine temperament characteristics to study how each of characteristic, by itself or in combination with another, affected child’s development in the context of school, home and friends. Behaviors for each trait are progressive, that is, each characteristic is on a scale that range from mild to intense.
It would be a cause of alarm if a child is inclined towards the high or low end of the scale. Redundancies were realized between the established categories leading to the development of a revised list that is frequently used by psychologists in today’s world (Rothbart 1-4).
Laboratory measures of fear, positive affect and anger have been used to predict temperament among the seven-year-olds but, attention has shown minimal stability since infancy. This can be associated with the relatively dwindled development of the executive attention system, whose development determines a child’s ability to control emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
The tendency of children to control activities governed by rewards leads to the prediction of greater success and emotional control in adolescence. Caspi and Silva (1995) implied that children, who portrayed a higher approach or confidence when they were only three to four years, indicated greater impulsive ability at age 18 and had a higher level of social potency.
Fearful children aged between 3 and 4 stayed away from harmful situations and possessed a lower score on social potency and aggression. Children between the ages of 3 to 4 with a higher tendency of distress proneness and who lacked attentional control were expected to manifest higher distress tendencies at age 18 (Sanson 142-150).
It is important to understand that most behavioral tendencies are innate and not a consequence of bad parenting as most people would presume. Examining of a child’s temperament is apparent in case the child shows bad behavior.
Interviews, observations and questionnaires are the tools used to measure the nine temperaments as suggested by Thomas, Cheese and others. These temperaments are measured while utilizing a spectrum that indicates mild to intense reactions in a continuous style. It is very important that parents understand their children’s temperaments and should work towards coping with these traits in their children instead of changing them (Kochanska 744-759).
The nine kinds of traits are compressed to form three basic kinds of temperaments. Around 65% of all children fall in one of three patterns; of these, 40% are deemed easy or flexible, 15% are within the range of slow to warm up (cautious) while the rest 10% are regarded to be difficult, feisty or active.
The other 35% of children indicate a combination of all these patterns. When parents understand these patterns, they will be able to tailor their parenting approach to suit the children’s needs with regard to expectation, discipline and encouragement (Center of Excellence 2-3).
Easy or flexible children are basically calm, sleep regularly, are happy, have regular eating habits, can adapt in a new environment with ease and are not easily upset (Oates, Andrew and Clare 172-173). Their easy traits create a need for parents to spare special periods to talk with the children about their hurts and frustrations because the child/ren will not instigate such a talk.
Children who are considered difficulty, feisty and active tend to be fussy during most times, will not sleep regularly and have very poor eating habits. They fear new people and situations, are easily upset by commotion and noise and respond to situations in an intense manner (Henig MM1). Children with such disorders ought to be provided with adequate room, where they can expend stored up frustrations and energy.
In addition, they require enough space so that they can exercise their freedom of choice. Cautious children are relatively fussy and inactive and are seen to react in a negative way, or withdraw from new situations.
However, their reactions become positive in a gradual process after continued exposure. Such a child should be placed on a routine program and should be given a lot of assurance as well. Adequate time is necessary for the child to adapt to new situations so that he or she can acquire independence that is necessary for him or her to unfold (Clakins, 1-6).
Temperaments are presumed to have relative stability since birth and are deemed as be enduring characteristics, which in reality can never be good or bad (Center of Excellence 2-3). The perception of these temperaments is what determines the perception by children of these temperaments as to whether they are bad or good.
Comprehending children’s temperaments is the most appropriate solution for parents rather than blaming themselves for their children’s normal temperaments. This understanding would enable parents to guide their children in the right way as they would learn to anticipate challenging situations that may present before their children (Oates, Andrew and Clare, 171-185).
When the environment, while taking into focus people’s expectations and demand, is compatible with a child’s temperament, then a goodness-of-fit is said to exist. Incompatibility exists when there is personality conflict. In early childhood, parents can cope with their children’s temperamental traits instead of opposing them. Later on when the children mature, parents can assist the children to adapt to the world by fitting in, in their temperamental traits (Howell 1-6).
A lot of children will possess some level of magnitude on various temperament traits. However, one trait will always be dominant. Negative labels such as lazy, cry baby or worrywart should not be used. The adult in a child’s life has a great influence on the development of the child’s temperaments. Therefore, adults should take up their parenting roles in an appropriate way that will positively guide the child’s natural style of reacting to the world.
Most scientists argue that temperament is associated with genetic and biological aspects despite the fact that environmental factors and maturations affect the way in which a child’s personality is expressed. The differences in child temperament are vital for family life as they govern the interactions that prevail in a family.
The goodness-of-fit is a critical determining factor of the relationship between a parent and his or her child. It determines the harmony between them. Temperament changes across the life cycle have been evident due to family environment and life experiences which influence one’s temperamental development process.
Early socialization of caregivers and their children and especially the use of the affective tone in these relationships have a very profound effect on the child’s developmental process. A caregiver influences a child’s developmental process by helping the child learn how to take charge of their behaviors and talk about their emotions. A child will develop more functional social and emotional interactions with his or her peers if a caregiver appropriately responds to a child’s emotional needs.
It is very important that a parent reacts to a child’s emotional upsets by acknowledging the child’s distress and comforting him or her rather than negating it. It is the interactions between caregivers and their children that affect how these children interact with others. A positive interaction with the caregiver will foster a positive interaction between the child and others, and the converse is also true.
The possession of temperaments by a child is a very normal process. However, the kind of temperament possessed is very important and a parent is the key determinant of this temperamental development process as he or she is the first person, who is in direct contact with the child.
Social and emotional readiness is equally important as it helps a child in making a successful transition through a kindergarten, early grades and later in life. Social competency and emotional readiness enable a child to achieve success in school as they are able to comprehend their own emotions and those of others. This way, they are able to relate well with others and understand what they want to achieve. Consequently, they are able to become successful in school and in later life years (Klein 552-556).