Predicting Temperament

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • When our son was a baby, he spent many an hour crying and screaming. It seemed like almost anything would set him off – eating too much, laying down flat or starting a new formula or medication. My husband and I couldn’t help but worry what our son’s disposition would be like as a toddler and beyond. Would he spend the rest of his days and nights screaming and crying?

    Four years later, we see we didn’t need to worry about that aspect of his illness. Our son still has reflux and a very limited diet, but you wouldn’t know it by his temperament. He is almost unstoppable on every front. At four years old, he is popular in preschool and is already reading. At home, he has no problem keeping up with his Dad and 10 year old brother in a game of football. Usually, the only time he cries is when we try to slow him down and announce that it is time to call it a day.
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    Research supports our own experience. Rothbart and Bates found that temperamental characteristics in infancy are only modestly predictive of later temperament or of other behavior in the years that follow. Put it another way, the temperamental qualities you see in your baby may not foreshadow the personality of him or her as an adult. In fact, many of those in-the-know say that the association between temperament and later behavior doesn’t appear in children until after their second birthday. The thinking is that after their second birthday, children are more self-aware and are beginning to make conscious choices about their temperament when they respond to situations.

    For now, your baby may just be trying to manage each and every day as well as possible. At this point, his screaming or crying is his only form of communication about a very difficult and possibly painful situation. Hang in there. Before you know it, you, your child, and your dining room will all be covered in glue and glitter in preparation for Valentine’s Day.
Published On: February 21, 2007