temperament Studies with Children

Temperament Studies with Children

"The problem of personality itself to us is the evident fact that to different men, in the same situation, different modes of response appear natural and even inevitable."

As noted by Talwar, Nitz, and Lerner (1991), "...over the past decade a significant increase has occurred in the study of temperament, especially during infancy and childhood" (p.30). The abundance of literature in temperament studies with children appear to support this premise. Talwar, Nitz, and Lerner believe that one reason for this growth in scientific attention is that of the ...theoretical role that individual differences in temperament have been given in accounts of variation in personal-social relations" (p.30). Another more pragmatic assessment of the literature might be that, as Thomas and Chess (1977) propose, there is an increasing number of requests from researchers, clinicians, and educatiors in this country and abroad for shorter methods of measuring and rating tempeament with an emphasis on dysfunctional and arousal behavior. What cannot be evaluated from a review of the literature is how the research is applied in the isntructional setting and to what purpose.

Talwar, Nitz, and Lerner's Pennsylvania Early Adolescent Transition Study (PEATS) investigated the "...developmental contextual mode of the functional significance of temperament individuality for adaptive development" wherein "...temperament-context fit [was] related to psychosocial adjustment during the transition from elementary school to junior high" (p.36). The authors' findings lend support to the developmental contextual view of the nature and relation between adolescent temperament and psychological characteristics. The data suggest the importance of including in the assessment of early adolescent school functioning the study of temperament-context relations.

Recent investigations include Rothbart's (1994) study which focused on the first few years of life and the development of temperament as affected by adult positive and negative regulations with infants, preschool, and elementary-age children. Slabach (1991) investigated child behavior (temperament) in the classroom environment. Temperament, in this study, was an indivcation of task orientation as related to distractability and reactivity in relation to the need for classroom monitoring.

In a different vein, Lawrence (1982) and Powe (1989) investigated student learning styles and motivation patterns and their relationship to the psychological type and learning styles of teachers. The problem statement of Powe's study was to determine the proximity of psychological type and learning style of 55 Upward Bound students (grades 9-12) to the psychological type and learning styles of seven Upward Bound teachers as related to student ratings of their classroom experience. Teacher psychological type was measured by the MBTI and learning styles was evaluated by the Information Acquition Preference Instrument. The diagnostic Instrument of Supervision was used to assess student's perceptions of their classroom experience. In addition, the author developed a questionnaire to determine whether the teacher's instructional methodology was consistent with their MBTI profile.

The pivotal temperament investigation of school age children was the New York Longitudinal Study started in 1956 and conducted over a six year time span by Thomas and Chess. The researchers studied 141 children from 85 US middle- to upper-middle-class families. Thomas and Chess developed their parent questionnaire (NYLSQ) to measure a child's activity level, rhythmicity, approach-withdrawl, adaptability, threshold of responsiveness, intensity of reaction, quality of mood, distractability, and attention span.

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    All contents copyright (C) 1995
    Peter L. Heineman
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