The relationship between "difficult" temperament and behavior "maladjustment"
Schleifer Fogel, Resa Elin
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The relationship between "difficult" temperament and behavior "maladjustment" was analyzed using sixty-six three year old children (thirty males and thirty-six females), a subsample of the data comprising the New York Longitudinal Study on temperament. This study analyzed whether the relationship between "difficult" temperament and behavior "maladjustment" is overall and global in nature and/or whether it is situational and contextual. Does the "difficult" three year old have higher "maladjustment" scores in general, across all areas of functioning, or does this child exhibit "difficult" temperament and act in a "maladjusted" manner just in specific behavioral areas? If the child expresses "difficult" temperament in an area, is he more likely to be "maladjusted" in that area? Results on a "macro" level suggest a correlation between overall "difficult" temperament and global "maladjustment." The subjects were then categorized to yield information that would be more readily applicable in a clinical setting. When the data are analyzed by the chi square method, on a "macro" level the overall relationship is not statistically significant. Results on a "micro" level suggest that the specific situation, context, or behavioral area can affect the relationship between "difficult" temperament and behavior "maladjustment." The children who exhibit "difficult" temperament in specific areas are not necessarily "maladjusted" in those areas of functioning. The areas where there is a relationship between "difficult" temperament and "maladjustment" are those areas where the children's mothers are active participants, namely relationships with parents and discipline. Results suggest possible sex differences as well. Girls seem to be more "maladjusted" in their relationships with their parents and boys seem to be more "maladjusted" in their reactions to discipline. These results question the prevailing notion of "difficult" temperament as a pervasive trait in the child evident across all areas of behavior. These results bear important clinical messages to parents and professionals alike in their understanding and management of "difficult" children.