Temperamental characteristics can be measured by researchers and clinicians in several ways, including interviews, behavioral observations and questionnaires.
In 1968 William B. Carey, M.D., a practicing pediatrician, developed the first practical measure of temperament, the Infant Temperament Questionnaire. Since then he and several associates have authored a series of temperament questionnaires assessing the nine NYLS temperament characteristics in infants as young as one month of age and in children through the end of the twelfth year. Collectively these are known as the Carey Temperament Scales, and are published and distributed by B-DI.
Knowledge about temperament and individuality can be useful in several ways.
First, educating parents, teachers and professionals about the existence of individual differences in temperament and ways to deal with these differences can be valuable. Differences are not necessarily the result of a condition or disorder. Many parents feel responsible for, and guilty about having a spirited child, and are relieved to know that their child is normal and they are not responsible for causing the child's behavioral patterns.
Second, it is helpful to know the specific patterns of behavioral individuality to allow those working with the youngster to 'tune in' to their behavioral style. Often caregivers have a general idea about the child's temperament, but ratings on a standardized temperament measure can improve everyone's focus, and there are often surprises (for example, the inability to adjust quickly is often seen as high persistence rather than gradual adaptability). Furthermore discrepancies between perceptions and actual behaviors are important to understand.
Third, with an accurate assessment of the child's behavior, specific changes can be planned and implemented by those working with the youngster. These interventions can improve the 'fit' between the youngster and environment, reducing stress and improving adjustment.
Several of the readings in the parent and professional sections of the Links deal with applications of information about temperament.