Temperament and Development: Infants and Toddlers
By Terry Begley
Temperament in infants and toddlers is are shaped and formed at early stages of life. Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess (1956) studied 141 children and discovered how parenting can modify a child's temperament. Infants are cute and we are sweet, but it all depends on their temperament which appears early (Berk, 2010). Crying, laughing, smiling, anxiety, and how active a child may be, all have to to with their temperament. Thomas and Chess found that a child's temperament can follow them through adulthood. Even psychological problems can be a cause of early childhood temperament (Berk, 2010).
By interviewing parents Thomas and Chess discovered the first model of temperament, which was nine dimensions. They found that certain characteristics clustered together. They found that it gave them three types of children:
- The easy child which adapts well, can be cheerful, and easily begins routines early.
- The difficult child is irregular in everyday routines during infancy, is slow to accept newexperiences, and tends to reacts negatively.
- The slow- to-warm-up child is not active, reacts slowly and mild to their environment, has a negative mood, and adjusts slowly to new experiences (Berk, 2010).
Mary Rothbart has another model of temperament. She looks at individuals and how they do not just differ in their reactivity. Rothbart explains how the self regulatory dimension of temperament is what she calls effortful control. Effort control is the capacity to voluntarily suppress a dominant response in order to plan and execute a more adaptive response (Rothbart, 2003; Rothbart & Bates, 2006).
Measuring temperament is usually done through interviews or questionnaires given to parents. Researchers also observe in the child's home or in the lab. Neither of these approaches are full proof and can be inaccurate.
Psychologists focus their research on children's temperaments that fall at opposite extremes of the positive-affect and fearful-distress dimensions of temperament (Berk, 2010).This where studies o inhibited, shy, uninhibited, and sociable children are focus on by psychologists.
This is where I enjoyed reading about how biology and environment may change the temperament of infants and toddlers. The explanation of how arousal of the amygdala contributes to contrasting temperaments. The research done with MRIs shows how shy and inhibited children react to novel stimuli (Berk, 2010). It is how easily the amygdala's connection to the cerebral cortex and the sympathetic nevious system prepares the body to act in the face of threat in the shy and inhibited child and not in the uninhibited child (Berk, 2010). The heart rate, Cortisol, Pupil dilation, blood pressure, skin surface temperature, and EEG brain-wave activity are controlled through the amygdala (Berk, 2010).
Effective child rearing practices have the chance of changing the temperaments of children. Patient, loving and supportive parents are what children need, along with good nutrition.