- Category: Research Notes
Kurt Eggers, Ghent U, Thomas More, & Turku U, and Robin Jones, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Rothbart defines temperament as constitutionally based individual differences in reactivity and self-regulation (Rothbart, 2011). In this definition, ‘reactivity’ refers to the arousability of physiological and sensory response systems, and ‘self-regulation’ are those processes that can modulate (facilitate or inhibit) one’s reactivity. When a child is confronted with a stimulus, it may lead to positive (e.g., smiling) or negative (e.g., fear, anger) reactivity within the child. This is overtly and/or covertly expressed and can be measured through somatic (e.g., facial expressions), autonomic (e.g., heart rate increase), cognitive (e.g., alerting), and neuroendocrine (e.g., cortisol release) responses. As the child grows older, s/he will be able to modulate this reactivity by using self-regulation processes (e.g., shifting one’s attention away or towards the stimulus) to increase positive reactivity and/or decrease negative reactivity. Thus, over time temperament structure changes from a predominantly reactivity-driven concept in infants to a structure with more emphasis on self-regulatory processes in older children.