Understanding the Role of Temperament in Child Development
Child development is multifaceted and complex, as each child’s experiences, abilities, and environment are unique. One important factor in child development is temperament, or a child’s “inherent” or “natural” characteristics that shape the way in which they interact with their environment. Elements of temperament, such as a child’s level of activity or willingness to accept change, can have significant influence on their growth and development over time.
What is Temperament?
Temperament describes a child’s pattern of emotional responsiveness, activity level, and self-control. It is an individual trait that typically falls somewhere on a continuum between two extremes. People will often describe a child as “easy” or “difficult,” when in fact most children have elements of both. It is important to note that temperament is not the same as a child’s intelligence, academic functioning, or personality.
Elements of Temperament
When thinking about temperament, it is useful to consider the following elements:
- Activity Level: The speed and amount of energy with which an individual carries out tasks or activities.
- Sensitivity: The intensity of physical and emotional reactions to stimulation, and the level of stimulation needed for a response.
- Mood: The frequency and consistency of emotions, ranging from positive to negative.
- Approach/Withdrawal: The responsiveness to novel individuals or situations.
- Distractibility: The ability to focus, sustain attention, and ignore distractions.
- Persistence: The willingness and ability to perservere on tasks.
- Regularity: The stability of daily rhythms like eating, sleeping, and eliminating.
Impact on Development
Although it is difficult to draw definite conclusions with regard to temperament and its impact on development, children with high persistence, approach, and activity levels typically demonstrate higher levels of problem-solving skills and success in academics. Also, children with high levels of self-regulation are better able to control impulsive behavior and demonstrate more effective communication skills.
In conclusion, understanding your child’s temperament and identifying strategies to help them address any areas of difficulty is an effective way to promote healthy physical and emotional development.