Temperament in infancy and childhood: Stability, relationships with sleep/wake characteristics, and differences as a function of an intervention for irritable infants

Date of Completion

January 1999


Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Physiological




This dissertation presents findings regarding the temperament of infants and children. For the first study, the temperament of 55 children was assessed annually using the Behavioral Style Questionnaire from 4 to 7 years and the Middle Childhood Temperament Questionnaire from 8 to 11 years. Mothers made differential ratings of siblings; and the two questionnaires showed continuity and stability, with consistent individual differences over the full range of ages and no evidence for variation over age or developmental change. ^ For the second study, the sleep of newborn infants was recorded continuously during the first two postnatal days. The recordings were made non-intrusively using the Motility Monitoring System (MMS). When the subjects were 8 months old, mothers filled out the Revised Infant Temperament Questionnaire, which yields scores on nine dimensions of temperament. Profiles of sleep measures for the infants in the four groups differed significantly on Day 1; the Most Difficult infants showed the most extreme values. ^ Subjects in the third and fourth study were infants whose mothers reported them to be fussy at 4 weeks of age. The third study investigated relationships between temperament and sleep/wake characteristics. Measures of Negativity and Positivity were obtained at 3 and 9 months from the Infant Behavior Questionnaire, and similar measures obtained at 7 months from the Infant Characteristics Questionnaire. Measures of the infants' nighttime sleep/wake characteristics were obtained at 5 weeks and at 6 months, using the MMS in the home for two consecutive 24-hour recordings. The Sleep/Wake Profiles obtained at both ages distinguished between infants who were rated as being either Consistently High or Consistently Low in Negativity from 3 to 9 months. ^ The last study reports the effects of an intervention for irritable infants. In the experimental group, infants had a Breathing Bear in their crib and mothers were given a list of suggestions to follow. Both of these interventions were designed to facilitate the development of biobehavioral rhythms. Infants in the Bear Group were found to be less Negative at both 7 and 9 months; mothers were found to have lower depression scores when their infants were 6 months of age. ^