Saturday, November 21, 2009

Infant Tempermant

Heredity is indicated to contribute to temperament and personality (Gauvin, 2009).  Temperament is described as the emotional expression, activity level, and sociability of an individual (Gauvin, 2009).  Research indicates, however, as an individual ages, personalities and temperament become influenced by the experiences of their life (Gauvin, 2009).  Other theories related not only genetics to temperament, but the prenatal and postnatal environment (Gauvin, 2009)
Research by Thomas and Chess defined temperament as the attitude and response to environment on a routine basis (Gauvin, 2009).  This attitude and response included the emotional expressions, amount of energy relevant to specific activities, and ability to interact socially (Gauvin, 2009).  These researchers labeled temperament in infants into difficult, easy, and slow to warm up (Gauvin, 2009).  Difficult babies had irregular sleeping and eating patterns, became agitated and upset in new situations, displayed increased fussiness and crying bouts (Gauvin, 2009).  The Slow to Warm Up incants had decreased responses or negative responses to initial new stimuli but would eventually adapt to the stimuli presence (Gauvin, 2009).  Easy babies seemed happy and easily adapted to new stimuli and environmental changes (Gauvin, 2009)
Another researched theory suggested by Rothbart indicated that temperament changes as individuals mature and change based on their personal experiences (Gauvin, 2009).  Rothbarg suggested an Infant Behavior Questionnaire which categorized temperament on specific categories such as positive affect, irritable distress, fearful distress, activity level, attention span, and rhythmicity (Gauvin, 2009)
The outcome for these children and the influence their temperament may have is variable upon the responses received from their caregivers (Gauvin, 2009).  Temperament elicits varying responses from caregivers, thus creating the learned response for certain behaviors and stimuli.  Furthermore, cultural beliefs assist in shaping temperament (Gauvin, 2009).  Research indicates that the reactions of the caregiver help to shape the temperament of the child.  For example, it has been noted that difficult babies have higher rates of developmental problems later in life (Gauvin, 2009).  The etiology of these problems is based on the increased stress of the infant, and the difficult expressions may result in negative social responses from the caregivers (Gauvin, 2009).  However, research has also found that difficult babies whom receive supportive and patient responses from their caregivers have decreased risk of long term developmental problems.  The child’s temperament being responded to appropriately is termed the Goodness of Fit (Gauvin, 2009).

Temperament it seems relies on the reactions received from their caregivers and immediate environment (Gauvin, 2009).  Temperament can change over time as new experiences are added to the infant’s knowledge base (Gauvin, 2009).  Cultural behaviors assist in shaping the infants social skills which has been supported by research (Gauvin, 2009).  It has been noted that Chinese American infants are calmer and faster to adapt  (Gauvin, 2009).  Similarly, Japanese infants have been found less reactive and distressed by environmental changes (Gauvin, 2009).  This is likely learned from their caregiver’s responses to them and the stimuli.  In studies of pre term infants it has found that social and emotional support is critical for social adjustment (Berk, 2008).

Valerie Poling


Berk, L. E. (2008). Foundations of Development. In L. E. Berk, Infants, Children and Adolescents (pp. 129-145). Allyn and Bacon.
Gauvin, P. (2009). Child Psychology: A Contemporary Viewpoint, 7th ed. In C. U. HASOP, Psychology Human Prenatal Development (pp. 3-36). McGraw-Hill Primis.
Gross, D. (2008). Physical Growth Health and Nutrition. In D. Gross, Infancy: Development from Birth to Age 3 (pp. 141-174). Pearson Education, Inc: Allyn and Bacon.

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