9 Temperament Traits
Psychologists studying individual differences in people have identified the following nine traits as parts of
Amount of movement and body activity
Regularity of biological functions (e.g., sleep-wake cycle, hunger, bowel
How quickly or slowly the person adapts to a change in routine or overcomes
How the person initially reactions to a new person or an unfamiliar situation
How sensitive the person is to potentially irritating stimuli (e.g. sound,
How strongly the person reacts to positive and negative situations. The
How easily the person is distracted by unexpected stimulus.
The amount of pleasant and cheerful behavior (positive mood), as contrasted
How long the person will keep at a difficult activity without giving up
Typically, the easy child is regular in biological rhythms, adaptable, approachable, and generally positive in mood
of mild to medium intensity. Such a child is easy for caregivers. S/he is easily toilet trained, learns to sleep through
the night, has regular feeding and nap routines, takes to most new situations and people pleasantly, usually adapts
to change quickly, is generally cheerful and expresses her/his distress or frustration mildly. In fact, children with
easy temperaments may show very deep feelings with only a single tear rolling down a check.
Difficult* or Feisty** (about 10% of children)
The feisty child is the opposite of the easy child. The child may be hard to get to sleep through the night, her or his
feeding and nap schedules may change from day to day, and the child may be difficult to toilet train because of
irregular bowel movements. The feisty child typically fusses or even cries loudly at anything new and usually
adapts slowly. All too often this type of child expresses an unpleasant or disagreeable mood and, if frustrated, may
even have a temper tantrum. In contrast to the easy child’s reaction, an intense, noisy reaction by the feisty child
may not signify a depth of feeling. Often the best way to handle such outbursts is just to wait them out.
Caregivers who do not understand this type of temperament as normal sometimes feel resentment at the child for
difficult temperament. Understanding, patience and consistency, on the other hand, will lead to a “goodness of fit,”
with a final positive adjustment to life’s demands.
The Slow-to-Warm-Up* or Fearful Child** (about 15% of children)
Finally, there is a group of children who are often called shy. The child in this group also has discomfort with the
new and adapts slowly, but unlike the feisty child, this child’s negative mood is often expressed slowly and the
child may or may not be irregular in sleep, feeling and bowel elimination. This is the child who typically stands at
the edge of the group and clings quietly to her or his parent when taken to a store, a birthday party or a child care
program for the first time. If the child is pressured or pushed to join the group, the child’s shyness immediately
becomes worse. But if allowed to become accustomed to the new surrounds at her or his own pace, this child can
gradually become an active, happy member of the group.
PITC Trainer’s Manual, Module
, The Program for Infant/Toddler Caregivers