Types of Infant Temperament


Psychology is a broad field which covers a vast number of topics and concepts. One such topic which is a vital part of this field is the topic of temperament. According to experts, temperament can be defined as the consistent individual differences which might exist in the behavior of an individual. These consistent individual differences are biologically based and are also quite independent of the system of value, attitude, and learning of an individual. There are many researchers who firmly believe that the concept of temperament is associated with formal dynamic features of behavior like plasticity, energy aspects, emotionality, sensitivity to specific reinforces, and other formal dynamic features. It is also vital to know that temperament traits of an individual remains throughout adulthood and can be observed in the distinct patterns of behavior. In this academic writing piece, readers will specifically be learning about the types of infant temperament. There will also be discussions on the topics of 6 different types of traits of temperament and different influences on temperament. Readers will also be able to learn about the different temperament characteristics which include fearful distress, irritable distress, positive affect, activity level, attention span, and rhythmicity.

An Introduction to Temperament

As it was mentioned above, temperament can be defined as the consistent individual differences which can be observed in the behavior of an individual. These individual differences are quite independent of learning, attitude, or the system of values of an individual. Earlier the term temperament was used to describe the behavior which was seen to be typical of babies. However, during the 1920s longitudinal studies started to be carried out which involved babies. These studies clearly showed that temperament was something stable and can even be found amongst adults. Researchers from across the globe have tried to classify the different dimensions of temperament to understand this concept in a better way. However, there are no specific ways through which the superiority of one classification method can be determined over another. Though, there are a large number of researchers who tend to sway towards the Thomas and Chess’s Nine Temperament Characteristics classification. These characteristics can also exert different influences on temperament.

The Six Temperament Dimensions by Rothbart and Bates

Mary K. Rothbart is a psychology professor at the University of Oregon. She is known for her studies in the field of temperament and social development. According to her, temperament does not just refer to the personality differences which exist in infants and children. But it also refers to those differences in personality which are developed before the development of higher cognitive functions, capabilities, and other aspects of the personality. According to Mary K. Rothbart and Bates, there are six different types of temperament dimensions. And those six temperament dimensions are:

  • Fearful Distress

Fearful distress is a dimension which basically means fearfulness. In the dimension of fearful distress, the individual tends to observe how an infant might respond when he or she fears something. Some of the common characteristics of fearful distress are distress, wariness, and withdrawal from an unfamiliar situation. A positive reaction in terms of fearful distress can be that the child does not cry every time he or she is afraid while a negative reaction would be that the child cries every single time he or she feels afraid.

  • Irritable Distress

Irritable distress is the second dimension and it refers to the anger which a child or individual might feel. Some of the most common characteristics of irritable distress are crying, fussiness, and showing any other types of distress when under a situation where one cannot get what he or she wants. In terms of irritable distress, the positive reaction for babies can be when one does not cry easily even though he or she will be angry while a negative reaction will be the child crying every time. Irritable distress in terms of positive adults will either mean that one keeps calm and does not quickly display aggressive behavior.

  • Attention Span and Persistence

By this dimension of attention span and persistence, one refers to the ability of a child to spend a considerable amount of time focusing on an object or an event which might be of interest to the child. A baby with a short attention span starts crying in a short period when he or she realized that his or her parents are carrying him or her. A baby with a long attention span can keep crying out loud for a long period of time. Adults who have a short attention span also find it hard to sit in one position for a long time.

  • Activity Level

Activity level is the fourth dimension. And by activity level, one usually refers to simply the number of movements which a child performs. In more technical terms, activity level can be defined as the amount of gross motor activity which was performed by the child. Babies with a high activity level are often moving even in their sleep while babies with low activity level do not move during their sleep. This dimension can have different types of influences on temperament.
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  • Positive Affect

Positive affect is a dimension which basically refers to the frequency with which a child smiles, laugh, cooperate with other individuals, or shows a willingness to approach other individuals. Positive babies with positive affect will smile a lot and wave when approached by other individuals while negative babies with positive affect will cry when approached by other individuals. Positive adults with positive affect also like to engage in new activities and meet new people constantly. In the next section, readers will be able to learn about rhythmicity.

  • Rhythmicity

Rhythmicity is the last dimension. Rhythmicity refers to the regularity with which children perform their bodily functions. Babies with positive rhythmicity ask for food every few hours. Babies with positive rhythmicity also have regular bowel movements. Babies with negative rhythmicity wake up easily and have irregular or different bowel movements.

The Types of Infant Temperaments

According to experts, there are also four different types of infant temperaments. And those four types of infant temperaments are:

  1. Easy Temperament

Babies with an easy temperament are quite mellow and only have mild fussing. These babies also do not cry that much. It is important to babies can have more than one temperament at the same time.

  1. Challenging Temperament

Babies with a challenging temperament are often seen as little kids with big personalities. If babies with a challenging temperament start crying then it gets hard for those children to rein themselves in. It can be hard for parents to care for such a baby but proper strategies can be put into place to handle any particular situation.

  1. Sensitive Temperament

Babies with sensitive temperament are highly aware of the world around them. These babies have a hard time to soothe themselves but can respond extremely positively to proper care and nurture.

  1. Intense Temperament

Babies with an intense temperament are seen to be highly passionate and they often tend to cry a lot.

The Conclusion:

Temperament can be defined as the consistent individual differences within the behavioral pattern of an individual which are relatively not influenced by learning, attitude, and the system of values of an individual. According to Mary K Rothbart and Bates, there are currently six different types of temperament dimensions. And those nine temperament dimensions are fearful distress, irritable distress, attention span and persistence, activity level, positive affect, and rhythmicity. There are also different types of infant temperament including easy temperament, challenging temperament, sensitive temperament, and intense temperament.

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