Infant Mental Health for the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Temperament is the style of behavior infants (and all people) have of relating to people, situations, and objects.

Thomas and Chess identified three types of temperament: easy or flexible, difficult, active or feisty, and slow to warm up or cautious. Infants may be one or a combination of these patterns.

Traits that make up temperament include: activity, rhythmicity, approach/withdrawal, adaptability, intensity, mood, persistence and attention span, distractibility, and sensory threshold. 

Difficult temperament is considered a risk factor of social-emotional issues. However, the 'goodness-of-fit' between parent and infant is important, too (e.g., an active and feisty parent may be disappointed in having a cautious baby). Parent’s mental health and expectations should be considered when thinking about infant temperament as a risk factor. 

References and Resources:

Thomas and Chess on Temperament:

Working with Temperament with ‘At-Risk’ Infants: