Monthly Article Archives: March 2000

Differences from Birth – Part IIRobert Brooks, Ph.D.

I received a number of e-mails from readers about my February column that described the ways in which the inborn temperament of children plays a large role both in their development and how the adults in their lives respond to them. Although most of the correspondence I received focused on the parent-child relationship, other writers emphasized the importance of appreciating temperamental differences in any relationship, including teacher-student, husband-wife, employer-employee, co-workers, and friends. As I have found during my workshops when I discuss temperament, the topic triggers much thought. In last month’s column I reviewed the work of two of the pioneers in the field of examining differences in infant temperament, psychiatrists Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas. They and their colleagues studied many infants and identified nine characteristics of temperament. Based upon these characteristics they labeled three kinds of infants, the “easy” child; the “slow-to-warm-up,” cautious, or shy child; and the “difficult” child. They noted that these were not precise labels since a number of youngsters do not fit neatly into any of these three groups while other appear to possess qualities from more than one group. Although the labels may lack some precision, I believe it is important for parents,

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