Child behavior reflects temperament, organic problems, and social situations. Experimental evidence based on studies of children’s individual primary reaction patterns. has shown what we all have more or less known for many years, namely, that different children respond to parental care practices in different ways. For instance. children may respond differently to the same approach on the part of the same parent regarding feeding, sleeping, toilet training, or general discipline. Each child seems to have a characteristic way of responding to new situations, and this response appears consistently time and again, even in more complex situations as he gets older.
Individual temperament. which consists of a number of primary reaction patterns, is one of the very important factors in the development of behavior disturbances between child and parent. A short description of some of the most important primary reaction patterns will help to clarify this concept.
1. Adaptive and non-adaptive behavior refers to the ability of the child to adapt to new situations and the ease with which he responds if the situation is repeated.
2. Approach-withdrawal refers to responses to anything new, such as foods, toys. people. Some children will approach immediately and make contact, whereas some will always be hesitant or withdrawn and have great difficulty in making contact with people and objects.
3. Intensity refers to the quality of a child’s response to tension. hunger, new foods, attempts to discipline or restrain, dress, diapers, etc.. This may be mild or extremely intense in its nature and is important in the overall picture of a child’s response to various new training problems. If a child is a high intensity reactor and so is his mother, it is almost inevitable that temper tantrums and behavior disorders will occur. If the child is a mild reactor and the mother an intense person, this may still result in interpersonal difficulties. However, if both are mild reactors, presumably there is going to be less friction.
4. Distractibility and persistence refer to the ease with which a child can be diverted from what he is doing to doing something else. A child who is very easily distracted is going to he difficult to train. He will not be able to pay attention long enough to absorb commands, He will also probably have learning difficulties.
5. Positive and negative moods represent expressions of pleasure. pain, friendliness, unfriendliness, joy, and crying. A child with a high degree of negative mood responses is going to be less agreeable than a child whose responses are generally positive.