What is Temperament?

Is it possible that temperament can affect child development? First I will define temperament. Then I will look at case studies to see if temperament affected the child’s development. I will be looking at the work of M. Rutter and John Piaget. I will study case studies by T Berry Brazelton and Bertrand G Cramer. I will also see how temperament has been organised by Thomas and Chess, Buss and Plomin, Dunn and Kendrick, and Kagan. Finally I will look at ‘goodness of fit’.

Let me first define temperament. The concise Oxford Dictionary gives the definition of ‘individual character of ones physical organisation permanently affecting the manner of acting, feeling and thinking.’ Rutter (1987) defines it as ‘an abstract notion of a trait or disposition to act or behave which is not shown by just one behaviour act but rather in the qualities of behaviour over extended periods of time’. (book one)

I would like to look at some case studies. The first case I would like to look at is Robert. Robert was studied by T. Berry Brazelton and Bertrand G. Cramer. Robert’s mother was aware that her baby was going to be big but was still shocked when she saw how big he was. Robert was well-built and weighed nine pounds. He was active and wide awake. He was wriggling and looking around the room. His head was slightly misshapen due to his position in the womb. He looked bigger and older than the average new born baby.

He did quieten down when given to his mother to inspect. When she spoke to him he responded to her voice. The mother was delighted that he appeared to recognise her voice. He had good head control when brought up to a sitting position. He amazed everyone with his alertness and body control. He also seemed to recognise his father’s voice. He grabbed at his gown when his father held him. He was not dressed or even cleaned, he seemed content to be held and fussed over.

Eventually the nurse took him to clean him up. The washing seemed to startle him and he began to cry. The nurse gave him his injection of vitamin K and put identification bands on him. All the while, Robert was clearly upset and crying. When she was done, the nurse wrapped him in a blanket. He calmed down at once, he returned to a peaceful baby. The mother and father attended to the mothers needs, which had been neglected until this point.

This was a good introduction for Robert and his parents. He showed them he can be calmed very easily and is content to settle himself. This would be good for the parents confidence in handling him. The parents were clearly delighted that he recognised their voices and responded to them. Now I will compare Robert to a different newborn. Chris was overdue, having been born at 41 weeks. Chris’s mother had had an ultrasound. An ultrasound is a type of imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves. The ultrasound had shown a normal baby. The mother knew she had not gained for three weeks. He was only six pounds, three ounces at birth. His skin was peeling and loose. He didn’t have much hair. He did not appear to like being handled. His breathing was noisy. He seemed very agitated altogether.

The medical staff were concerned with his appearance and general lack of response. They spent a long time checking him. They made sure he responded to stimulation and wrapped him before handing him to his parents. The delay was a concern to the parents as they were worried as to what might be wrong. When they first saw their baby, the parents were shocked at his appearance. He looked ‘old’ and skinny. The parents were concerned that they may have inadvertently caused the baby to look like this. He did not appear to like being touched or moved. Even a slight movement caused him great distress. It was almost a relief when the medical staff took him for caring.

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David from Healtheappointments:

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