Monday 28 February 2022

Ad | The Three Types of Temperament in Children

Like many parents, you probably want to know and learn as much about your child as possible so you know how to support them. The field of psychology offers many ways to do this, primarily through studying personality and temperament. Here is a guest post from health writer Marie Miguel, who is part of a research team compiling a vast database of FREE health support at BetterHelp.

Two boys, one inside a cardboard car, chasing in a garden

Temperament is an essential part of child psychology as it determines their behavioral style. Though many traits make up temperament, most children fit into three categories. Read on to learn more about temperament, why it is important, and what the three common types of temperament are in children. 

What is Temperament? 

Temperament refers to a child’s behavioral style. It is the inclination that a child will experience the world and react to it in specific ways.

Each temperament type determines how a child will react to their environment or situations. Temperament types also predict how a child will express or regulate their emotions.

However, do not mix temperament with personality. Personality refers to who a person is and why they act in certain ways. Temperament refers to a person’s behavioral style or ‘how’ they act or react to certain situations.

There are nine characteristics that make up temperament. These are all spectra, with most children falling somewhere in the middle. The nine traits of temperament are:

  • Activity: Measures how much energy a child will have.
  • Regularity or Rhythmicity: Predicts how well the child will stick to biological routines (such as a sleeping schedule).
  • Distractibility: Measures how easily a child will be distracted by noises or other stimuli.
  • Approach or Withdrawal: Determines if a child will tackle a problem head-on or hesitate.
  • Adaptability: Describes how well the child will adapt to new situations.
  • Attention Span or Persistence: Measures how well a child will perform a task even if there are distractions in the environment.
  • Intensity: Determines how intense the child’s emotional responses are to situations.
  • Sensitivity: Measures how sensitive the child is to changes in the environment.
  • Mood: Determines whether the child will primarily be happy and positive or unpleasant and negative.
Boy giving double thumbs up and grinning sitting at a restaurant table

Why Is Temperament Important? 

Understanding your child’s temperament will help you create an environment that best supports and fits their temperament. A child with a specific temperament type will have different needs than those in the other categories.

Some temperament types and traits have a predisposition towards certain mental health conditions or psychological disorders. Understanding this early on will make it easier to cope or treat the disorder should it develop in your child.

Furthermore, if your child has temperament traits that affect their mental health or have had other consequences, you can talk to a psychologist about working with these traits. The good news is that no temperament trait is fixed. Though they show up in infancy, any temperament trait can be adjusted with professional help and lots of effort. 

The Three Types of Temperament

Depending on where your child lies on the spectra for the nine traits above, they may exhibit all the traits of one of three temperament types: easy, feisty, or fearful. So let’s explore these three types and how children in each category typically behave.

Easy temperaments are found in about 40% of children. Children with this temperament type are approachable and have a happy demeanor. They stick to their routines (such as sleeping and eating schedules) and adapt well to changes in the environment. Any negative emotions are expressed mildly.

Difficult or Feisty
As you may have guessed, children with feisty temperaments are the opposite of easy children. They are not adaptable or approachable. They may struggle to stick to a regular nap or sleeping schedule or mealtime routine. They often cry or fuss over the slightest changes in their environment. Feisty children take up about 10% of the population.

Slow-To-Warm-Up or Fearful
About 15% of children exhibit a fearful temperament. Children with this temperament are typically shy. Like children with feisty temperaments, fearful children may not adapt well to changes in their environment or be very approachable. However, they are likely not to be as fussy and express their negative emotions more slowly. In addition, they may or may not be good with routines.

However, it is important to note that the fearful child may relax and open up after spending time in new environments or stimuli, revealing their true happy nature. 

Large group pf children and some adults at Guinness Book Of Records fun day


You probably realized that the percentages above do not add up to 100%. That’s because the remaining 35% of children do not fit neatly into any of the three categories. Instead, they have a mix of temperaments with a combination of their qualities.

If your child belongs in this uncategorised type, then don’t fret. You can still research the traits your child exhibits to create an optimal environment for them. You can discuss your child’s traits with a child psychologist or start exploring temperament by going to BetterHelp.

(Photos are my own, and taken from reviews over the years - Stickibox, Bill's Restaurant, and a truly terrific fun day with Guinness Book Of Records). 

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