By Barbara Keogh, Ph.D.
The Andersons have two sons: Josh, age 11, and Ryan, age 9. Both boys are bright, achieve well in school, are involved in sports, and have many friends. Yet their parents wonder how two boys in the same family could be so different. Josh moves at a slow pace, is easy going, adaptable, and "laid back." Ryan is energetic, intense, quick responding, and races through life at top speed. Josh fits his parents' lifestyle well, but they are puzzled and frequently upset and irritated by Ryan's high activity and intensity, and find his behavior intrusive and disruptive. The differences in behavior between the two boys reflect individual characteristics of temperament, and these differences are powerful contributors to the ups and downs of everyday life in the Anderson household.
Temperament describes individual differences which are:
Differences in temperament are seen in infants. Some are fussy, sensitive to noises, easily startled and upset, and have irregular eating and sleeping patterns; others are calm and mellow and quickly adapt to regular eating and sleeping routines. Many eight-year-olds are energetic, intense, and quick responding, whether they are eating, playing, or talking with friends. Others have a deliberate tempo, are reflective, and take time to adjust to new situations, new foods, and new people. Parents who have several children recognize differences in persistence, distractibility, and energy levels, and are aware that one child may be typically outgoing and enthusiastic, while his brother is shy and "low-key." It is especially important to recognize individual differences in temperament when a child has learning or attention problems, as parents and teachers need to figure out the reasons for a child's behavior.
Researchers have developed a number of specific definitions of temperament (Keogh 2003; Kristal, 2005), but the one by psychiatrists Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess (1977) is especially relevant for parents when thinking about how their children and families interact. They defined temperament "as a general term referring to the "how" of behavior. It differs from ability, which is concerned with the "what" and "how well" of behaving, and from motivation, which accounts for why a person does what he is doing. Thomas and Chess identified nine dimensions of temperament based on their own clinical expertise and on their research with children and families. These dimensions provide a framework for describing individual differences in temperament, and are captured in Jan Kristal's (2005) definitions of the nine dimensions.
Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you more
insights to help you help your child succeed.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to complete your registration.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to submit your review.
Please click on the link in the verification email we just sent you to complete your change of email address.
Whoops! It looks like we still need to verify your email. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the e-mail? Click the button below and we'll send you a new one.
Thanks for registering. Welcome to GreatSchools, the largest online community committed to improving educational outcomes through parental involvement.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! You haven't verified your email address yet. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the email? Click the button below to receive a new one.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
For principals and school officials, we offer a special Enhanced School Profile (ESP) which allows you to update and add information about your school, as well as respond to reviews. If you are a school official, click Continue to start.
Please note that it can take up to 48 hours for your comment to be posted to our site. While you're here, we'd like to invite you to fill out a survey on your school's programs, activities, and extracurriculars. It only takes a few minutes and will help parents get a full picture of your school.
Get started now! You have successfully registered and can now start updating your Official School Profile. The information you provide is extremely valuable in helping parents and students learn more about your school, so thanks for taking the time!
Thank you for registering as a school leader. We just need to verify your email address. We've sent you an email - please click on the link in that message to get started editing your school's information!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.