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Chapter 6 : Temperament

How would you describe your temperament?  Does it fit one of Chess and Thomas’ three styles?  If you have a sibling, is your temperament similar or different from theirs?

"Temperament" is defined as being "individual differences in how quickly the emotion is shown, how strong it is, how long it lasts, and how quickly it fades away" (Santrock, 2019, p. 172). When speaking about temperament, we can also discuss reactivity: the rate and intensity with which an individual may react to a situation (Santrock, 2019, p. 172). And we might mention self-regulation: the ability or efficiency with which one can control their emotions (Santrock, 2019, p.172). Chess and Thomas, Kagan, and Rothbart and Bates are all recognized for their research and theories revolving around temperament.

Chess and Thomas looked at temperament in children and organized temperament into three categories: easy child, difficult child, and slow-to-warm-up child (Santrock, 2019). As the group titles infer, an easy child is adaptable, positive, and has a high capacity for self-regulation (Santrock, 2019). A difficult child tends to be negative, is inconsistent in their routines, and shows little capacity to adapt (Santrock, 2019). A slow-to-warm-up child tends towards negativity but stands out for their low level of activity and reactivity (Santrock, 2019).

When imagining my current adult temperament in these three categories, I tend to think of myself as an "easy child". I tend towards positivity and proactivity, even when I lose inner stability and direction. As a circus performer who tours year-round, my lifestyle depends upon my high ability to adapt to new cultures, countries, living situations, and social situations. When life is challenging, I tend to exhibit a strong level for self-regulation. When looking at Santrock's original definition stated above, I experience emotions quickly, and sometimes intensely, but I am very artful at expressing them clearly, and at mediating actively how I choose to express them with the outside world. This is not to say that I am never overwhelmed with emotion or out of control, but I feel that in general, I am someone who others find easy to be around.


Santrock, J. W. (2019). Lifespan development (17th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.


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