Research on temperament has given care providers clues on how to meet a child’s individual needs. Each child is born with his/her own temperament and behavioral characteristics that usually persist through life.
Researchers Thomas, Chess & Birch identified nine temperamental traits:
Regularity of sleeping and eating patterns
Adaptability (approach to or withdrawal from new situations)
Intensity of emotion
Mood (generally positive or negative)
Distractibility (high or low)
These nine traits group children into three different patterns or temperament types:
The “easy” or “flexible” child- 40%
The “difficult” or “spirited” child- 10%
The “slow to warm up” or “shy” child- 15%
A mix of traits; no clear pattern
None of these traits are good or bad; no one type is better than the other. The term “Goodness of Fit” is the match between a child’s temperament and his or her environment. A child is in a good fit when adult expectations and demands match the child’s temperamental characteristics. For example, it can be troubling for a family to expect their shy child to enjoy noisy socializing, or for a care program to expect the child who is slow to adapt and/or has high persistence to switch activities all of a sudden. Caregivers need to model respect for and support of each child’s unique combination of genetics, culture, temperament and experiences.
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