- Clinical practice using information about temperament is dedicated to understanding of the importance of behavioral individuality in infants and children, and
- application of information about temperament by parents and professionals to promote normal growth and development, and
- avoidance of unnecessary labels and treatments in otherwise normal infants and children.
The modern study of temperament began with the work of Alexander Thomas, Stella Chess and associates in the New York Longitudinal Study (NYLS) in the late 1950's. This longitudinal research identified nine temperament characteristics that are present at birth and influence infant and child development in important ways throughout life. Unlike Jungian conceptions that measure personality, the NYLS temperament characteristics are assessed by looking at the behavioral style in the areas of a person's life(environment).
Since the 1950's hundreds of scientific studies of temperament have shown that temperament is an important factor in child growth, health and development. The nine characteristics are:
- Activity level-the amount of physical motion exhibited during the day
- Persistence-the extent of continuation of behavior with or without interruption
- Distractibility-the ease of being interrupted by sound, light, etc unrelated behavior
- Initial Reaction-response to novel situations, whether approaching or withdrawing
- Adaptability-the ease of changing behavior in a socially desirable
- Mood-the quality of emotional expression, positive or negative
- Intensity- the amount of energy exhibited in emotional expression
- Sensitivity-the degree to which the person reacts to light, sound, etc.
- Regularity-the extent to which patterns of eating, sleeping, elimination, etc. are consistent or inconsistent from day to day.