Temperament Case Study

Temperament Case Study for Use in Training

Use this case study in trainings with mental health consultants, education supervisors, and other early childhood staff. Learn to observe and recognize children's temperance temperament traits and determine if the child-caregiver relationship is a good fit. Use the strategies in the IT3 to explore ways to match caregiving styles to best fit the child’s temperament.

Child: Micah, 22 months old
Adult: Ms. Mitchell, Micah's child care provider for the last six months

Child's likes and dislikes collected through observation and interview:

  • Loves vehicles
  • Likes to use his bear as a comfort item
  • Likes to stay close by to caregiver
  • Has a good focus for hands on activities like puzzles
  • Affectionate toward peers and familiar adults
  • Does not respond well to touching sticky or unfamiliar substances like clay, needs time to observe first
  • Gets up and really moves to music
  • Is a light sleeper
  • Is a great eater, likes to try many new things

Sample Observation

Caregiver: Ms. Mitchell
Child: Micah
Person Observing: Consultant

It is 2:50 p.m. and Micah is sitting on Ms. Mitchell’s lap in the comfy corner watching another caregiver say hello to a little girl and goodbye to her parent. Micah has his hand resting on Ms. Mitchell's leg. Ms. Mitchell is singing a hello song to each child as they arrive and is bouncing her legs to the beat. Micah sees the parent give the child a teddy bear and a hug. Micah gets up from Ms. Mitchell’s lap and moves towards his cubby. He finds and reaches inside his diaper bag and pulls out his own teddy bear from home.

Micah walks over to Ms. Mitchell and sits down on the floor next to her with his bear. He holds the bear up and smiles at Ms. Mitchell and says, "Bear." Ms. Mitchell smiles back and says, "Yes, Micah, that is your bear." Ms. Mitchell gets up and walks quickly over to the snack area and says, "I will be right back and she resumes her singing." Micah looks up at her and smiles. He puts the bear down and begins to play with some blocks that another caregiver puts down in front of him. Another child sits down next to Micah and starts to place one block on top of another. Micah looks over and smiles. He says, "Block." Micah scoots closer to his peer and puts his hand on her arm and says, "Sara." Sara scoots away and says, "Mine." Micah leans over and hugs Sara. Sara says, "No, hug." Micah frowns and looks up toward Ms. Mitchell.

Information from IT3

Ms. Mitchell's Temperament Traits:

  1. High activity
  2. High distractibility
  3. High intensity
  4. High regularity
  5. Low sensitivity
  6. High approachability
  7. Low adaptability
  8. High persistence
  9. Positive mood

Micah's Temperament Traits:

  1. Low activity*
  2. Low distractibility*
  3. Low intensity*
  4. High regularity
  5. High sensitivity*
  6. High approachability
  7. High adaptability*
  8. High persistence
  9. Positive mood

*Indicate traits that Ms. Mitchell and Micah differ on.

Sample Suggestions for a Goodness of Fit When the Temperament Traits of a Caregiver or Parent Differ from a Child’s

For the Child that Has Low Distractibility:

  • Accommodate Micah by allowing extended experiences that he can handle. "Micah, you are so busy looking at the stories. Would you like to look at a few more?"
  • Provide options at the end of an experience so Micah can feel like a part of the decision. "Micah, you went down the slide, would you like to go again or ride the bikes now?"
  • Give Micah frequent reminders that a transition is approaching, so he can be prepared in advance. "Micah, it's almost time for lunch. We have about five minutes left for play time." When possible, use multiple ways to remind children of transitions. Adults can use picture cards to remind children what is happening next, a gentle tap on the shoulder, a simple transition song, and other methods that support the shield's style of learning.
  • Encourage Micah to interact with other children while playing, noticing and describing interactions between him and other children. "Micah, Adam is looking at the red ball you have; could you roll it back and forth?"
  • Spend regular one-on-one time with Micah throughout each day.

For the Child with a High Sensitivity:

  • When engaging in a stimulating experience such as music, provide Micah with other, less stimulating options like quiet reading time or play in an area close enough to safely observe.
  • Accommodate Micah, who may not want to go outside due to very hot or very cold temperatures. "Micah, you can choose to stay inside with Ms. Mitchell today and run and tumble in the gym."
  • React sensitively when Micah is overwhelmed by his surroundings. Help find a quiet activity. "I notice you are tightening your fists and frowning. Is the bright light bothering your eyes?"
  • Be attuned to Micah's eating pattern and avoid incorporating too many new foods too fast.
  • Let your child know when you are about to touch them. "I am going to pick you up gently now so we can go and put on a fresh diaper."
  • Give Micah experiences with sensory materials by putting things like sand, dirt, corn starch, or water inside sealed plastic baggies so he can experience their sensory properties.
  • Offer tools that children can use to experience new textures at their own pace. For example, have tongs available for picking up textured objects, paint brushes for experimenting with sticky glue, gloves for finger painting, etc.

Reflect on which strategies Ms. Mitchell might choose for Micah to support his temperament traits that are different from her own. Choose one or two from each category above, keeping in mind the information collected from observation, interview, and the temperament tool. List them below:

Ms. Mitchell and Micah share some temperament traits including, high persistence and high approachability. Do you think any of the tips below could be used to support a goodness of fit?

Tips for High Persistence:

  • Have fun providing a range of activities and new objects, and take delight in watching all of the ways your baby or toddler explores and manipulates his surroundings. Like you, he may feel really happy working on a problem and discovering all of the possible angles.
  • Describe this feeling for your child and consider praising her efforts rather than the final product.

Tips for High Approachability:

  • Share the pleasure with your baby or toddler as you take on new adventures and outings, like museums (even if your baby just watches people go by), playgroups, parks, or the zoo.
  • Take time to be around other children and families, if possible.
  • Be close by to help toddlers as they learn to interact with others. Sometimes highly approachable children may come into contact with a child less prone to new people and they may need help to navigate the situation.

Questions and Reflections

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Last Reviewed: November 2014

Last Updated: January 22, 2015