"It is because of this concern with the person's individuality that we have been drawn to the study of temperament."
Talwar, Nitz and Lerner (1991) viewed temperament as a "key instance of behavioral individuality" (p.29). They questioned, "what influences whether a given attribute is regarded as easy or difficult by a parent, teacher, or peer? What gives a given temperament attribute its particular meaning?" (p.30). Quoting Super and Harkness (1986), they point out that the developing person's context is structured by three kinds of influences:the physical and social setting; culturally regulated customs involved in socialization; and the "psychology" of the caregivers or the other significant people with who the developing person interacts. This psychology is termed ethnotheory, that is significant others' preferences, aversions, beliefs, orexpectations regarding the meaning of significance of particular behaviors. Together, the three types of influences comprise the developmental niche of the person, that is, the set (or sets) of structured demands on the developing person.
The 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 author's 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.
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Peter L. Heineman
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