Teddy Bear Day Care – Ypsilanti

Teddy Bear Day Care and Learning Center

Born This Way

by Leslie - May 6th, 2013.
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Much research has gone into temperament, or “the inborn characteristic way that infants interact with the world around them.” Temperament theory was first discussed by the Greek physician, Hippocrates. He believed that our moods were caused by body fluids. Mood and temperament research has come a bit further since then, but Hippocrates was on to something.

Modern research began in the early 70s by Alexander Thomas and Stella Chass. These two followed 133 infants into their adult lives, and examined characteristics such as regularity of their habits, their reactions to changes in their routines, their responses to caregivers and strangers, what kind of moods described their disposition, and so forth. After years of observation they found that most people could be categorized into one of three temperamental styles:

  • Easy: about 40% of children are believed to have this temperament
  1. Moods are usually positive & seldom explosive
  2. Regular in basic routines such as sleeping & eating

  3. Adapts easily to new people & situations


  • Difficult: about 10% of children are believed to have this temperament
  1. Cries often, with intensity, and expresses other negative moods

  2. Irregular in basic routines

  3. Reacts to change with difficulty & slowness


  • Slow-to-warm-up: about 15% of children are believed to have this temperament
  1. Has both positive & negative moods, which are usually mild

  2. Moderately regular in basic routines

  3. Reacts negatively to new people & situations initially, but successfully adjusts over a period of time


  • Other: about 35% of children are believe to have this temperament. They display a combination of the above characteristics.

Thomas and Chass’s research had one very important implication for the field: temperaments are something we are born with, not something we learn or pick up along the way. Mary Rothbard and her colleagues picked up where this piece left off. They found that for some people, the basic temperamental patterns presented early in life remain with us. For others, however, the degree or intensity of temperament style shifts, as infants, toddlers, and young children grow and change in daily encounters with family and other caregivers.

So what’s the real world implication of all of this? We, as parents and caregivers, must know what temperament category our children fall into. Equipped with this information we then should try to create an environment that works with, rather than against, the child’s temperamental style. For example, we ought not expect a slow to warm up child to walk into a classroom and easily integrate himself into play; or a difficult child to adapt easily to a new morning routine.

Many children fall into that other category. We must be especially in-tune to these children. Perhaps your other child does fine integrating herself into small groups, but not so well in large groups. Or perhaps she really loves books, so dropping her off at school during circle time may be best.

Temperaments vary somewhat throughout our lives and the environments we are in, but generally speaking they are something with which we are born. Therefore, it is important that we pay attention to clues that infants give us as to what their temperaments are. When we tune into these, we can be the best possible caregivers.


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