One's temperament can shape up how they behave, how they learn, and how they handle people. Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess, two psychologists, tried to figure out a child's temperament, and their study has some interesting findings.
The New York Longitudinal Study (NYLS)
The NYLS was a study in 1956 that lasted for decades. Its goal was to study temperament in children and to identify traits of temperament. In the end, the study was able to list nine traits that can make up one's temperament.
These traits could be measured, and extremes were rare. However, most children have lower or higher levels of these traits, which were:
These traits would be measured, and a profile of the child will be created. This profile can work for young children, even children who are only a few months old. The study controlled markers for race, gender, income, mental disorders, and any other factors that may affect someone as well. These traits can make up different personality types, even though not every child would fit into the types listed.
The Personality Types
40 percent of the children who were studied were "easy". An easy child is one who is positive, regulated, does not react intensely, and is adaptable to any new situations they may face. A child who is easy can establish their routines and have different times where they eat or sleep. They are positive and cheerful and can adapt to rules as they learn them. Easy children were referred to as such because it's easy to raise them and there are usually fewer problems that they may face.
Difficult children are the exact opposite. They have an irregular functioning, react intensely to a stimulus, withdraw from new situations, are unable to adapt, and are negative. Because of these problems, they were referred to as difficult due to the idea that they are harder to raise. They will have inconsistent eating and sleeping times, have a hard time adjusting to new routines, and they required much patience for their parents to raise. These were about 10 percent of children in the study. A difficult child is not necessarily a badly behaved one, but just someone who has a hard time handling change or other problems they may face.
These are children who are slow to warm up, and 15 percent of children in the study were this personality trait. They had low energy, withdrew from activities that were unfamiliar to them, and have a hard time being able to maintain positivity at times. However, they would warm up to changes eventually.
If you do the math, you may have realized that this only accounts for 65 percent of the children in the study. So, what about the other 35? The other 35 had a combination of traits that didn't quite fit into the three personality types. They may be easy sometimes, but difficult at other times. As it turns out, children can be quite different from each other. This is just how they were born.
Why Does This Matter?
Knowing a child's temperament can give you a better understanding of your child, and even of yourself. It's possible to observer very different temperaments even in children in the same family.
A child's temperament is considered "inborn", but it can be shaped by environment and nurturing. Personality is shaped by experiences and genetics, and temperament plays a role in the development of personality.
If you're wanting to understand your child's temperament and personality or even your own counseling can help.