Child's Relationships with Others?

Temperamental and self-control differences persist to receive strong interest in the psychological and educational studies. The examination of learning have long highlighted the role that temperamental characteristics and accepting the differences can play in promoting successful response to the learning environment. Currently, education is challenged to meet the needs of students, in order to confine talents and human resources. Discerning temperaments of at-risk youth comparative to learning and instructional practices is a fruitful avenue in which actions can be taken to help each student’s unique approach to the educational environment.

In this manner, adolescence presents some of the utmost challenges to educators as they try to accommodate for temperamental considerations. As such, childhood and adolescence is an chance in which support of learning temperaments is helpful to both educators and students alike. Such individualization is practical and stresses the significance of working with student empathies.

Shaffer (1996) wrote that temperament refers to an individual’s behavioral style as he or she relates to other persons and to the inanimate environment. It is generally considered to develop early in life; to persist, with some modification, across the life span; and to be at least partially rooted in the individual’s genetic makeup. In the sibling relations studies reviewed below, the investigators have been particularly interested in children who display low persistence, high activity, and strong expression of emotions such as frustration and anger. These researchers hypothesized that such a temperament in any sibling would be associated with higher levels of conflict and lower levels of positivist in sibling relationships (p. 1228).

This hypothesis has received support from data indicating that temperament, measured using maternal reports, can contribute to sibling relationship quality from the relationship’s beginning. Children with difficult, less adaptable temperaments displayed greater distress in response to the birth of a sibling than did easier, more adaptive children. Similarly, mothers participating in a study reported that children who experienced more negative moods in general were more likely to withdraw and experience sleeping problems after the birth of a sibling than were children who scored below the median on negative mood. Children who were extremely emotionally intense and experienced frequent negative moods were “clingier” after the birth of a brother or sister than were children with easier temperaments. Children who were more withdrawn before the birth showed less positive interest in their new siblings than did more outgoing children (Carey, 1998, p. 522-529).

Temperament continues to impact the sibling relationship as it develops. Sibling temperaments were found to account for unique variance in explaining qualitative aspects of young children’s sibling relationships. Children with highly active temperaments experienced four times as much sibling conflict than did less active children. Similarly, younger siblings directed more agonism toward highly active older siblings. They also found that, for girls, high activity, high emotional intensity, and low persistence were associated with greater sibling conflict; for boys, sibling conflict was predicted most reliably from these temperamental characteristics in younger brothers (Carey, 1998, p. 530-533).

Temperament is composed of nine dimensions including activity, adaptability, distractibility, approach/withdrawal, intensity, mood, persistence, rhythmicity, and threshold. These dimensions cluster into three temperament constellations, or behavioral styles, known as the easy, difficult, or slow-to-warm-up style. The difficult style, often associated with preterm infants, is composed of five dimensions, denoting a child who is arrhythmic, withdrawing, and not adaptable, and who displays intense moods that are often negative. Use of such categorization, however, has been questioned and criticized in the literature as inappropriate or hasty when applying such a negative label to the still developing child (Shaffer, 1883, p. 1228-1231).

Although the manifestation of temperament is expected to change appropriately with behavior development, temperament characteristics are presumed to be innate and generally stable throughout childhood. It is possible that many differences in temperament ratings between preterm and full-term infants are related to developmental differences. Poor motor control, abnormal reflexes, and lower autonomic regulation have been found in preterm infants. Newcomb (1993) indicates that lower gestational age has been associated with less vigor, less motor activity, and a lesser ability to orient. Preterm infants tend to display extremes in neurobehavioral assessment (e.g., high or low intensity of crying or motor activity) that moderates with increasing gestational age at birth. The preterm infant’s “lack of cortical inhibitory or modulatory” (p. 101) ability may be associated with adaptability (modifying reactions to stimuli), intensity (energy level of response), or other temperament dimensions. Thus, although it is unknown empirically, what we refer to as temperament manifestations in preterm infants may be related to differences in temporal maturity of underlying neurobehavioral processes (Newcomb, 1993, p. 99-128).

Changes in temperament over time may influence, or be influenced by, infant-parent interactions. Hospitalized preterm infants display more active sleep and smiles during infant-parent interactions, in contrast to more sleep-wake transitions, jitters, and body movement during infant-nurse interactions. Once at home, parents assume more responsibility for routine care, yet interactions between parents and preterm infants tend to be less satisfying than interactions between parents and full-term infants. Preterm infants are less able to coordinate their behavioral cycles of affect and attention during social interaction, and their cues are often hard to read. In comparison, term infants are more likely to lead interactions (Shaffer, 1996, p. 865-877).

How are the characteristics of an individual child’s temperament related to the quality of that child’s relationships with others? In order to answer this question we will consider factors that take part in forming those characteristics of child’s temperament. The major factor is the family, the environment where a child is brought up.

Dodge (1990) suggests that “children’s home lives have undergone considerable changes over the past few decades. As a result of increased out-of-wedlock childbearing and rising levels of divorce, more children spend at least part of their childhood years in single-parent households. Employing the theoretical perspective of the life course through which parents’ lives are viewed as impacting those of their children, we first question how current family and parental work circumstances shape young children’s emotional well-being and behavior”  (p. 129-132).

To place our research questions in theoretical context, we draw on several key principles of the life-course paradigm: the interdependencies of lives; the role of human agency in decision making and action; and the importance of the timing of life events. A central tenet of the life-course perspective is that the lives of one generation are linked to the lives of other generations. The “linked lives” of parents and children are particularly important because although children often have little voice in the decision making of their parents’ lives, the family and work circumstances of adults define children’s living situations to a large extent by influencing the levels of various social, economic, and human capital resources available to children within the household (Dodge, 1990, p. 137-142).
Although children’s lives are impacted by a range of social institutions outside of the family, such as schools and neighborhoods, the fates of family members are tightly linked, and families retain a key role in the social and behavioral development of children. Family structure, the provision of skills and abilities by adult household members and the potential competition for resources from other dependents in the family therefore all help to shape the familial environment in which children are raised. Theoretical framework, families provide financial, human, and social capital for their members, and each of these three facets of capital influence children’s development.

In mass communication research, communication climate pertaining to the flow and exchange of information and maintenance of harmony among family members has long been viewed as an important influence on children’s attitudes and behaviors. The Family Communication Patterns (FCP) construct, first developed as a part of a political socialization study, has inspired numerous studies over the past two decades on the influences of parents’ communication styles. Studies have shown that family communication patterns affect children’s susceptibility to persuasion, their aggressiveness, and their interest in politics, knowledge of political affairs, and political campaign activity, as well as their media use, interpretation of media content, consumer behavior, and materialism (Austin, Roberts, ; Nass, 1990, p. 54). Although there is abundant empirical evidence demonstrating the important consequences of family communication styles on children, most of these studies have focused on the attitudinal and behavioral outcomes. Little research attention has been devoted to examining the influences of family communication styles on individuals’ personality development.

Consideration of the contribution that temperament might make towards children’s social competence and social status has stemmed from the recognition of particular individual differences that appear, at least in part, to be constitutionally based and that reflect stylistic patterns of behavior. While adaptive or ‘maladjustive’ outcomes are clearly not dependent on the contribution of temperament alone, there is evidence that individual differences in temperament qualities, such as activity level or approach/withdrawal, may be related to children’s social functioning and adjustment within the peer group (Farver & Branstetter, 1994, p. 334-340).

Research with preschoolers has indicated that individual differences in temperamental characteristics may influence the adjustment children make to the preschool setting, the responses they make to their peers and the quality of their relationships with other children (Farver & Branstetter, 1994, p. 341). In general, children with easy temperaments, defined as approachful, adaptive and positive in mood have been found to respond pro-socially to peer distress, have more positive and interactive relationships with friends and peers and be rated as behaviorally adjusted to the preschool environment in terms of cooperation and persistence (Mobley & Pullis, 1991, p. 577-586). In contrast, children with difficult temperaments appear to have relationships that are more problematic with their peers and are more likely to exhibit socialization and behavioral problems

Although there is evidence to suggest that individual temperamental characteristics may be linked to social adjustment and to frequency of socialization problems, the relationship between temperament, sex and social status has not been explored fully with respect to preschool-aged children. While some previous research has revealed clear sex differences in the display of temperamental characteristics identified as difficult, whether temperamental characteristics are differentially related to social status for boys and for girls are unclear. For example, there is some evidence that the temperament dimension of arousability may be negatively related to peer status for girls, whose play tends to be more sedentary than boys, yet positively related to peer status for boys, at least in early adolescence (Bukowski, Gauze, Hoza, & Newcomb, 1993, p. 255-263). Thus, the aim of the present study was to examine sex and social status differences in temperamental characteristics for preschool-aged children.

It was expected that, in contrast to rejected children, popular children would exhibit fewer of those temperamental characteristics identified as difficult such as high activity levels, high distractibility, and negative mood. Although a difficult temperament may be predictive of low peer status for both boys and girls, it was expected that not only may boys be more likely to display difficult temperaments than girls, but that contextual features such as the differing interactional styles and norms for behavior that exist within boys’ groups and within girls’ groups may mediate the relationship between temperamental characteristics and social status. Given the importance of positive peer relationships for children’s concurrent and future adjustment, examination of the linkages between temperamental characteristics, sex and social status appears to be important in understanding the influence and functional significance that temperament may have with respect to behavioral individuality and social adjustment (McLeod, Fitzpatrick, Glynn, ; Fallis, 1982, p. 95-110).

The strong links between temperamental characteristics and social status evident in the present findings suggest, as Brownell and Hazen (1999) propose, that individual temperamental characteristics might be more directly translated into individual differences in styles of social interaction during early childhood than in later school years. While individual differences in peer competence among older children may be more a function of complex interactions between temperamental characteristics and social experiences, during the early childhood years, temperament may make a large contribution towards both the quantity and the quality of children’s interactions with their peers. Thus, a child initially rejected by his or her peers due to temperamental characteristics may fail to develop the effective interpersonal skills necessary for mature and competent social behavior. The present results therefore indicate that intervention programs for children at preschool age need to take into account the particular temper amental styles, which appear to be associated with rejection in early childhood (p. 403-413).

As models of social competence emphasize the ongoing interactions between individuals and the environment, competent behavior must include the ability to generate behavioral responses, which match the situational requirements of the social environment (Wine & Smye, 1981, p. 25). The temperament differences in Task Distractibility between boys and girls identified in the present study appear to be relevant to adjustment both within the peer group and, more broadly within the preschool environment (Mobley & Pullis, 1991, p. 586). Thus, future research into the social learning experiences of young boys which appear to interact with early temperamental characteristics to place boys at greater risk for the development of social difficulties would appear to be well worthwhile.

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