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Types of temperament in babies: easy, difficult and slow

Types of temperament in babies: easy, difficult and slow

July 19, 2024

Many experts claim that the personality is composed of two elements: temperament and character. While the character develops from environmental influences, the temperament, of a biological nature, accompanies us from the beginning of life and serves as a basis for the personality traits that will be consolidated over time.

In this article we will describe the three main types of temperament in babies: the easy, the difficult and the slow reaction . Although a large number of children can not be classified clearly in any of them, these categories can be very useful to conceptualize the basic temperamental differences in the early stages of life.


  • Related article: "Differences between personality, temperament and character"

What is temperament?

Temperament is the biological component of personality . It is determined mainly by genetic inheritance, which makes it quite stable, although environmental factors can influence the manifestations of temperament, both in early development and throughout life.

Different aspects of biology and physiology determine the temperament of each individual. The role of the neurotransmitters of the nervous system and of the hormones of the endocrine system, as well as the level of cerebral activation and the reactivity to stimulation, is especially relevant.


It is believed that the temperament of babies it develops as you feel emotions , whose presentation patterns are configuring a determined psychophysiological disposition. The attitude of the parents and their reactions to the needs of the child have a relevant weight in the configuration of the temperament.

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Types of temperament in babies

In the 1950s Alexander Thoma and Stella Chess initiated an investigation into the development of behavior and personality that would last more than 30 years, the New York Longitudinal Study. From this study three types of temperament have been described in babies: the easy, the difficult and the slow reaction (or "children difficult to excite").

Let's see what are the characteristics of each of these types. It is important to bear in mind that 35% of the children analyzed could not be classified strictly in any of them, but they showed characteristics of more than one of the types.


1. Easy children

"Easy" children are those who present moods of moderate intensity and with a tendency to good humor . Their biological rhythms are stable, so it is easy for them to adopt regular time and food patterns. They also accept frustrating experiences more than children with other temperaments.

In addition, children of easy temperament show an open disposition to new experiences and situations: they smile to a greater extent to unknown persons, they tolerate new foods satisfactorily and adapt well to changes in routines.

According to the New York Longitudinal Study, 40% of babies can be classified in the category of easy temperament. This makes it the most frequent early temperamental style of the three.

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2. Difficult children

Thoma and Chess classified children as "difficult" with irregular biological rhythms, emotional responses of high intensity and tendency to feel and manifest negative emotions , for example in the form of irritability or crying; however, they also tend to show positive emotions more markedly.

These babies have more difficulties than those of easy temperament to maintain regular sleep and feeding schedules and patterns. They find it harder to adapt to food as well as to new situations and routines, and they trust less in people they do not know.

Children of difficult temperament react to a lesser extent to novel stimulation and changes. As well tend to respond with tears and tantrums to frustration of your desires and impulses.

Only 10% of babies, approximately, can be classified in the category of difficult temperament; therefore, this type of temperament is less common than the easy one and that of slow reaction.

3. Slow reaction children

The authors of the New York Longitudinal Study also called the members of this group "children difficult to enthuse."These accounted for 15% of the total sample, so that the slow temperament is somewhat more frequent than the difficult one, although it is still much less usual than the easy one.

Synthetically we can say that slow reaction babies show many characteristics of the easy temperament , although they are more indifferent than these and take longer to adapt to changes, as the names that have been given to this temperament suggest.

Slow-reacting infants manifest less intense emotions than those of easy temperament, whether they are negative or positive. They tend to be more reticent to people, situations and new foods than easy children, although they adapt well in a progressive way, especially if they are not pressured.

The biological rhythms of slow children are less regular that of the easy ones, which makes it harder for them to acquire new patterns and habits, although less than for babies of difficult temperament.

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InfantTemperament.mov (July 2024).


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