Temperament – Why Children Behave The Way They Behave?


Everyone has a particular way of behavior and expressing their emotions. Many times, we are surprised when a person behaves differently from his disposition. This is because we fit them in a particular frame of our mind. If someone is calm and quiet and follows orders, we fit him in the frame of ‘MATURE’ individual. If someone is troublesome, wandering, and cranky, we fit him in our frame of ‘IMMATURE’.

Similarly, we observe the behavior of children in our families or neighborhood. Children exhibit a variety of expressions. I had a similar encounter when my sister gave birth to twin baby girls 3 years back who we named Yuga and Prithvi. Both had almost the same physical appearance. Initially, both were similar in behavioral manners. Gradually, as they grew up, it was observed that Yuga was calm, adaptable, and easy-going, but Prithvi was energetic, quick, and always at the top of speed in giving any kind of response. Everyone loved both of them. Yuga fitted in the family without any hurdles, but everyone had to be on toes to manage with Prithvi’s energy and keep her engaged.

Likewise, children grow up inside out and, in this process, they absorb the culture from the surroundings. Reinforcement, whether it’s positive or negative, helps them to understand the importance of things to do or not to do.

What is Temperament?

Temperament is the aspect of a personality trait that we are born with. This is an inborn quality of the individual that indicates the child’s attitude towards the surrounding. Understanding one’s temperament helps to anticipate and understand their reaction towards any situation. They help us to understand the individual’s style and behavior.

Factors Responsible for temperament and its development:

  1. Genetics
  2. Personality traits
  3. Early development
  4. Role of family members
  5. Prenatal development
  6. Environmental factors
  7. Cognitive development

According to proto-psychological theory, there are four fundamental temperaments:

  • Sanguine: This is characterized by attributes, such as talkative, social, and fun-loving. They like to be in the crowd, explore things, and are easy-going with everyone in their surroundings.
  • Choleric: They are goal-oriented, industrialist, and ambitious. Due to their motives and aims, they are dominant leaders resulting in shot-tempered behavior.
  • Melancholic: They are analytical (mostly self-analytical) emotional and brooder. They opt to spend time with themselves rather than being communicative with resources available. They are reserved, introverted, and sensitive.
  • Phlegmatic: These people are relaxed, peaceful, calm, and also sluggish. They are emotional but prefer to hide their feelings. They have sympathy for others and help and care for society.

 

Since all above are general aspects of temperaments, we must focus on temperament evolving during the developmental period of the children.

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Here are a few Major Child Developmental Theories that help us in understanding the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the behavior of the child.

Temperament by Thomas and Chess: These are two scientists who discovered the child’s temperaments by carrying a qualitative longitudinal research study. They identified these three major clusters of temperaments.

  • Easy-going: They are friendly, easy-going, and always focus on the positive aspect of any coin. They are extroverted and outgoing. Hence, children who fall in this temperamental style will mostly express positively and adapt to different situations.
  • Slow-to-warm-up: These kinds of children like to be in their comfort zone. In such a zone with only familiar things and people in the surroundings, they will be all good. But, when they face anything new or challenging, they become anxious. They find it difficult to adapt to the situation, but, when given time, they adapt and overcome the challenges.
  • Difficult: They have a negative mood constantly. Being stubborn and rigid in their attitude, that they don’t release their in-capabilities easily. They are also very sluggish in adapting to the newness of the surroundings.

 

Thomas and Chess have used nine different temperamental traits to identify the above temperament of the child.

 

Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development: Jean Piaget’s was a Swiss Psychologist and genetic epistemologist. His theory was based on the intellectual capabilities of the child. How the child does discover things? And, how he reacts towards it? The theory explains such processes of a young mind. The theory has identified four major stages as below:

  • Sensorimotor stage: This stage occurs in 0-2 years of the child’s age. The child explores the external world through the senses and movements.
  • Pre-operational stage: The duration of this stage is 2-7 years of the child’s age. Here the child learns through the symbols and pictures. The development of language is an important part of this stage.
  • Concrete–operational: From 7-9 years of the child’s age, he learns a logical and rational way of thinking.
  • Forma-operational stage: From 12 years to adulthood, the child learns abstract thinking and deductive logic of reasoning.

 

Hence, from these stages, cognitive abilities can be assessed and so the mental age of the child.

Freud Psychoanalytic Psychology: Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory concentrated on the psychoanalytic theory which constituted 3 principles.

  • Personality Structure: This focuses on the factor that the person’s behavior is based on conflicts between Id, Ego, and Super Ego.
  • Psychosexual stages- Here 5 stages describe the behavior of a person depending on their needs and basic rights of life.
  • Defense Mechanisms: He has grouped defense mechanism i.e. unconscious way of dealing with the situations.

 

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory: Erikson has focused on the psychosocial theory which explains the relation of a person with the external world in eight stages as per the growth and development of an individual.

Bowlby Attachment Theory: John Bowlby was a psychoanalyst and he believed that behavioral problems have a great association with early childhood. He focused on the child’s attachment to the surroundings in different stages.

Hence, to understand the reason behind a child’s behavior, one must understand these child psychological factors in a better way to get along with them at ease. This understanding would help every individual in contributing the better way of development of the child!

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