Lakeside

Effects of Temperament Traits: Four Characteristic Behaviors

In my last post we talked about three aspects of new research on children’s temperaments. One of those aspects entailed how some temperament traits continue later in life. These traits are characterized as inhibited, unihibited, difficult and well-regulated. I have encapsulated them below.

4 Characteristics of continuity of temperament traits

Inhibited children

cautious toddler
Children who are extremely inhibited typically demonstrate low levels of social competence and high levels of social anxiety.

Inhibited children respond to the unfamiliar with inhibition (reserve, apprehension). They tend to withdraw from unfamiliar people, objects and situations. They may show anxiety and stress. Their inhibition behavior expresses as shyness, low sociability, timidity and introversion. Children who are extremely inhibited typically demonstrate low levels of social competence and high levels of social anxiety. They usually find it difficult to disengage from the threat and shift attention to other things or situations. 

Uninhibited children

Uninhibited children are more likely to respond to novel situations rather fearlessly. Researchers describe them as temperamentally exhuberant. Behaviorally, they tend to show significant frustration and anger about restrictions and rules, desiring control over most events they encounter. These children lack caution and are challenged to inihibit their behavior. They may exhibit problems in internalizing standards or rules and require both firm limits and very nurturing relationships with their caregivers. For these children, it is important to provide positive motivations and qualities to help them internalize rules. 

angry toddler
Difficult children have significant behavioral problems.

Difficult children

Approximately 10 percent of children are considered difficult. Difficult children have significant behavioral problems. Most studies show that when mothers perceive their infants highly difficult, this reality alone predicted future behavioral problems. Children identified in this category are more likely to break rules or cause mild damage to people or property. Fortunately, evidence is not conslusive that temperamentally difficult children always continue this behavioral trait into adulthood.

Regulated children

Self-regulated children demonstrate a capacity for effortful control. This refers to the children’s ability “to inhibit a dominant response and initiate a subdominant response.” Self-regulation also refers to capability to avoid distractions and inhibit or activate an appropriate behavior without actually desiring to do so.

A father helps his daughter on the playground.
While these traits tend to have continuity, how children are parented has a large and lasting affect on the degree that these traits could be carried into adulthood.

To explain, a self-regulated child can change a response from one that would predictably be inappropriate to one that is appropriate through his own ability to control his behavior. Children who display effortful control often show ability to deal with stress, remain attentive, can concentrate and plan. Further, children who are high in this trait express empathy, guilt, shame and low aggression. They appear to be more agreeable and more easily relate to their peers.

Predictors of characteristics in adulthood

Consequently, you can see how these temperament characteristics seem to be predictors of traits a parent or caregiver will face throughout a child’s life, even into adulthood. While these traits tend to have continuity, how children are parented has a large and lasting affect on the degree that these traits could be carried into adulthood.

I think understanding these four characteristics of temperamental behavior is important toward children’s healthy growth and development. When we better understand why they behave the way they do, we can more effectively strategize how to nurture, discipline and encourage their strengths in positive ways.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Source: Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Encouraging Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children, Second Edition by Sarah Landy, pp 36-38. 
 

 

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