Temperament

Temperament is each person's unique way of thinking, behaving, and reacting to other people and situations. Although every person is different, basic patterns of temperament exist, such as being shy and withdrawn or outgoing and eager to try new things.

Temperament often affects a person's:

  • Emotional responses. For example, some babies are more sensitive to stimuli and are easily overloaded. These babies may react to playful rocking or tickling by crying, while other less-sensitive babies might squeal with delight.
  • Ability to focus without being distracted. Although this is partially a learned skill, a person's ability to concentrate on one thing at a time is also a trait that is related to temperament. People who are easily frustrated or very sociable may have a hard time staying on task.
  • Ability to adapt to changing situations. Some people seem to naturally be able to embrace change, while others are very resistant to any new routine.
  • Activity level. Some people like to interact with people and be "on the go." Others prefer quiet activities and are often alone.

Temperament is greatly shaped and affected by a person's life experiences and environment. For example, a shy child who is hugged and praised often will develop self-confidence, which helps him or her respond in a positive way to new situations.

Temperament may change over time as a person ages.

Last Updated: May 11, 2009

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics

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