How does a newborn baby temperament affect their growth and development?
Temperament can be defined as a set of innate characteristics or traits that determines your baby’s attitude towards the world around them. These characteristics also influence, how the baby learns about the world.
Characteristics of Temperament:
There are nine common temperament characteristics or traits in babies, pointed out by the physicians Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess in their book “Temperament and Development” published in 1977.
The characteristics are:
Activity level: This refers to the amount of physical activity the baby engages in. Does your baby move a lot, when you try to change their diaper or try to feed them? Babies who are always active, keep moving and cannot stay still; have a high activity level. Does your baby stay still, when you are helping them get dressed? Does your baby eat without making a fuss? Babies who stay still and do not prefer to move around; have a low activity level.
Distractibility: The level of focus and attention displayed when a baby is not particularly keen on engaging in an activity. Does your baby get easily distracted, due to noises or finds it difficult to work, when there are others in the room? This indicates that they have high distractibility. Babies who do not get bothered by external stimuli, while performing an activity have low distractibility.
Intensity: Intensity refers to how powerful or strong your baby gives positive and negative reactions. Does your baby react dramatically to small events? High reaction intensity babies tend to react dramatically to both positive and negative situations. Babies with low reaction intensity do not give out strong negative or positive reactions and are less emotional.
Regularity: It refers to how regularly your baby engages in activities like eating and sleeping. Babies who have high regularity are hungry at predictable times and have consistent sleeping patterns. Babies who have low regularity eat and sleep irregularly and at unpredictable times.
Sensory threshold: It refers to how sensitive your baby is to physical stimuli like noise, temperature, textures, and light. It answers the question of how much stimulation, elicits a response in your baby. Babies with high sensory threshold do not seem to be bothered by physical stimuli, they are likely to enjoy traveling and trying new cuisines. However, babies with low sensory thresholds are bothered by slight changes in temperature, surroundings, textures, and noises.
Approach and withdrawal: It refers to how the baby approaches a new person, situation or objects like new toys. Babies with a high approachability level, welcome change easily and are more open to new things. They are curious and act impulsively. Babies with low approachability levels are hesitant while approaching some new activity and do not like taking risks if they perceive it as dangerous.
Adaptability: It refers to how the baby adapts and accepts changes in life. Highly adaptable babies, will not be uncomfortable when they must accept a new change or transition from one activity to another quickly. Less adaptable babies take time to be comfortable with a new situation like going to school for the first time or shifting to a new house.
Mood: It refers to the amount of pleasant behavior (positive mood) your baby shows in comparison to sad and unpleasant behavior (negative mood). Babies who have a positive mood are bubbly, cheerful and optimistic. Babies who have a negative mood appear sad, anxious, distressed and pessimistic.
Persistence: It refers to how easily your baby gives up a task, especially when the task is difficult. Babies who have high persistence tend to finish, whatever work they have started even if it’s tough, for instance, they will keep trying to solve a difficult puzzle. Babies who have low persistence struggle with completing the tasks, they are working on due to the difficulty, they give up easily and ask their parents or others to do the task for them.
There are three major types of temperament:
Easy temperament: Approximately 40% of toddlers and babies have an easy temperament, which means they can easily approach and adapt to new situations, react in a neutral way to everyday issues and be consistent with eating and sleep patterns. Babies with an easy temperament have a positive outlook about life. They deal well with change and are approachable people
Feisty or Difficult temperament: Approximately 10% of babies have a difficult temperament, which contrasts with the easy temperament babies. They do not easily adapt to new situations and mostly withdraw themselves from change. They have irregular eating and sleep patterns. They tend to be emotional, negative and give intensive reactions to daily life issues. However, they are found to be more upfront about their needs, persistent while performing activities and can make clear decisions.
Slow to warm Up Temperament: Approximately 15% of babies have a slow to warm up temperament, they are usually called shy. They may not be comfortable in new situations they are not quick to react. They can have regular or irregular eating and sleeping patterns. Such babies should not be pushed to do activities. They cope with issues at their own pace. The negative emotions of the baby can gradually become positive, once they cope with their feelings and problems.
Now that you have got an understanding of the basic temperamental characteristics and temperament types, it will help you understand the effect of temperament on the learning and development of your baby.