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The 9 characteristics that make up your child’s personality

Posted by Benedict Chude on

In the late 60’s and 70’s, two doctors named Chess and Alexander conducted research into the personalities and temperaments of children. They found nine basic components that could together describe a child’s tendencies and reactions, helping parents better understand what their children need.

Read on and see how your child fits into each category. And interestingly, these things don’t seem to change when a child grows up – so see where you fit in, too!

Activity level

This refers to the level of motor activity and the proportion of physically active and inactive periods. Understanding the level of activity your child requires can help you plan activities that will satisfy this characteristic.


Rhythmicity refers to the predictability or unpredictability of biological functions like sleep, hunger and bowel movements. Helpful in knowing whether you should stick to a strict schedule or take a little more leeway.

Initial response (approach or withdrawal)

Your child’s immediate reaction to a new situation or stimulus like a new toy, a new person or place, food, etc. is described by his initial response. Does your child smile and embrace new things or take longer to warm up to them? Being aware will help you introduce new things in the most productive manner for your child and also adjust your own expectations.


This refers to a child’s ability to accept something new over time. Does your child accept a new food after a few tastes? How long does it take for him or her to start to enjoy a new caregiver? Accept a new sleeping arrangement? If he takes longer to adapt, then you can understand to give him more time and not give up easily.

Sensory threshold

How sensitive is your child to sensory input? Sensory input could refer to anything your child understands through the 5 senses: the feeling of scratchy fabric, waking easily at the slightest sound, tastes and textures of food, crowds and busy places, and so on. If she’s more sensitive, it could explain her behavior  in response to certain situations.

Quality of mood

Is your child upbeat and cheerful or more naturally a bit surly? If your child tends to look a bit more on the dark side of things, you can both accept his temperament and show him how to gradually see more positive things around himself.

Intensity of reactions

You can deal with behavior calmly if you know that a big reaction is just part of who your child is. Other kids may simply look up and go right back to what they’re doing when something happens, while others scream and cry at the slightest disturbance. A new present may spark squeals of glee from a kid who reacts intensely while another may barely give a smile – and both may like the present equally!


This refers to the ability for your child’s attention to be diverted from an activity at hand. If your child is not very distractible, she may pine for her favorite toy for hours, while a more distractible tot might grab onto something else more readily. A more distractible child may turn out to be more easygoing later in life.

Persistence and attention span

Persistence refers to a child’s willingness to go at an activity without giving up even with obstacles or difficulties. Attention span refers to the duration of attention they will give an activity. You’ve probably seen how some children can work on one thing intently for 30 minutes while others go through toy after toy in the same timeframe.

When you see your child’s behavior explained in terms of his ingrained personality traits, are there any situations you might find less frustrating? Ways you can help him or her build confidence and resilience better? And even see you or your spouse reflected in these traits?

For fun, you can also see recommended hats according to your little girl’s personality!


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