Temperament and the social competence of children one to three years of age



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Texas Tech University


The relationship between temperament and social competence was investigated in a sample of 12- to 36-month-old group-care children {H - 202) by the use of maternal and group-caregiver evaluations of child behavior. Subjects easy in temperament were assessed by mothers as significantly more socially competent than the difficult and slow-to-warm-up subjects on one measure of social competence. There were significant main effects of sex on social competency in regard to three measures of social competence. Females were rated as more competent than males by mothers and group-caregivers on all four measures of social competence, and significantly more so on three of these measures. Sex and temperament style did not interact in influencing child social competency.

Children categorized as difficult in temperament (n^ = 22) were not found to be delayed in their level of social competence in a significant number of cases. However, slightly more than half of these subjects were assessed as delayed by the group-caregivers. The temperament characteristics of low response threshold, high persistence and attention span, adaptability to change, approach behavior, and rhythmicity (regularity) were positively associated with social competence. Presence or absence of a sibling in the family and marital status of the parents were unrelated to the subjects' social competency.

Boys were significiantly more active than girls, whereas girls were more responsive to sensory stimulation and adaptable to changing situations and people than boys. The older children (24 to 36 months) were significantly less active but more persistent, adaptable, and reactive than the younger children (12 to 24 months). The discussion centers around the potential usefulness of specific temperament characteristics as opposed to general behavioral styles in predicting the social competence of older infants and toddlers. Explanations concerning the sex differences noted in temperament and in relation to the children's social competency are offered. The advantages of multimodal assessment approaches, as well as multivariate and multidirectional models of temperament-environment interaction, are described. Theoretical implications and practical applications of the study are finally discussed and future research directions proposed.