Thursday, June 07, 2007

Difficult Temperaments: Resistant to Change

From Jerome Kagan's work (Boston Globe):

"At 4 months old, plop your baby into a bouncy seat and present him with a series of colorful new toys - ones he's never seen - one after the other, for 20 seconds at a time...If he screams at 4 months, he'll be more likely to stay home from junior-high dances. If he screams, he'll be more likely to answer "no" when a psychologist asks, at age 11, "Are you happy most of the time?"

It won't really matter if you cuddled your child as an infant or showered him with play dates as a toddler. He'll probably never be a brash CEO or politician, although he might become a brilliant solitary researcher or a melancholy poet.

On the other hand, if your baby just stares calmly at the toys, he will be calm on dates but also slightly more likely to become a delinquent, because parental threats won't faze him..."

From a McMaster University summary:

"Inhibited and uninhibited children differ from each other behaviorally in several ways:

- Reluctant to initiate spontaneous verbal interaction with unfamiliar children or adults.
- Low level of spontaneous smiling with unfamiliar others.
- Long time to relax in new situation.
- Impaired memory following stress.
- Cautious in situations requiring decision; low risk-taking (stand closer to basketball hoop when throwing)
- Unusual fears and phobias"

Kagan suspected that inherited differences in the limbic system were responsible for this pattern of behavioral inhibition, but in this recent J Neuroscience report, striatal activations were also noted. Interestingly, the researchers hypothesized that it wasn't simply that behaviorally inhibited kids were more likely to respond to bigger rewards - they also think the higher activation may reflect greater worry about failing to win the biggest reward (backed by other psychological studies in these groups). This consideration is a good reminder that many mistakes are likely to be made when chasing mere imaging differences. Ideally, differences in groups should use many different cognitive or behavioral checks to test hypotheses about what the activations mean.

Flexible Temperament
Striatum and Inflexible Youth pdf
Boston Globe Interview with Kagan
McMaster University Notes on Kagan and Behavioral Inhibition

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