Nine Traits That Make Up A Child’s Temperament

Psychologists use multiple methods to describe a child’s behavior and uniqueness. One of these methods is through the study of temperament.

Temperament is the behavioral style of a child. It explains how a child interacts and reacts to the world around them. Temperament determines how a child will react to stress and environmental changes as well as how active or emotional they will be. 

Temperament is broken down into nine traits. These traits measure the various emotional and behavioral styles that make a child unique and help create their personality. The nine traits of temperament include:

  • Activity
  • Sensitivity
  • Regularity
  • Approach and Withdrawal
  • Adaptability
  • Mood
  • Intensity
  • Distractibility
  • Persistence

Read on to learn more about these traits and how they contribute to your child’s temperament. You will also learn about the three temperament types that most children are categorized into. 

After learning about all the facets that make up temperament, head on over to BetterHelp to learn more about how temperament affects how your child interacts with the world around them.

The Nine Traits of Temperament

The following nine traits are what make up the temperament of a child. Together they determine what the child’s behavioral style will be. Each trait is a spectrum, with most children falling in the middle of the two extremes. Let’s delve into these nine traits more to understand how they contribute to temperament.


Activity refers to how energetic a child is. For example, an active child will need to remain in motion and may struggle to sit still for long periods. This makes them great at sports and athletics, but they may have difficulty remaining calm during school.


Sensitivity refers to a child’s typical reaction to certain stimuli, such as lights and noises. A child with a high sensory threshold will take in stimuli with little to no reaction. Conversely, a child with a low sensory threshold will be very reactive and agitated when exposed to these stimuli.


Regularity refers to a child’s ability to maintain a consistent biological schedule. A child with high regularity will have a typical bedtime or naptime schedule that they rarely fight. They will also have a more consistent mealtime routine. A more variable child will fight any imposed schedules, making their bedtimes and mealtimes irregular.

Approach and Withdrawal

Approach and withdrawal (also known as initial reaction) measures how open a child is to new people and experiences. An open child will have no problem meeting new people or exploring new environments. A hesitant child will be more shy and cautious.


Adaptability measures how well a child adapts to environmental changes, new environments, or new routines and schedules. Children who adapt easily are good at going with the flow but may easily accept harmful behaviors or unhealthy environments. Conversely, children who are not as adaptable will struggle in constantly changing environments. 


The mood trait expresses the overall demeanor of a child. A child with a positive mood is typically happy and has a more positive outlook. Conversely, children with a negative mood are more sullen, disagreeable, and pessimistic.


Intensity refers to the amount of energy a child puts into reactions and emotional responses. A child with high intensity will be very emotional, whether that emotion is positive or negative. However, a child with low intensity will exhibit little emotion to situations and changes.


Distractibility measures how well a child can work on a task without giving in to distractions. An attentive child will work vigorously even if there are mild or moderate distractions. A sidetracked child will lose focus quickly, even at the slightest distractions.


Persistence refers to a child’s attention span. A child who is persistent stays with a task until it is completed. This trait is typically tied to good school performance. However, they may be perfectionists and resist finishing tasks until they feel that the tasks are absolutely perfect.

A child with low persistence will give up more easily. They will struggle to finish their work if no one helps them and give up if it is too difficult.

The Three Temperament Types

Depending on where your child lies on the spectra for each trait, their temperament may exhibit those of one of the three defined temperaments for kids: easy, feisty, or fearful. So let’s delve into these temperament types more so you can figure out which category describes your child’s temperament.


Easy temperaments are exactly as they sound: easy. Children with this temperament are approachable, adaptable, and remain relatively happy. They stick to eating and sleeping schedules without much fuss and express their emotions more mildly than other children.

Difficult or Feisty

As you may have guessed, children with feisty temperaments are the opposite of easy children. They are not adaptable or approachable and rarely keep to a schedule. These children cry easily since they do not regulate their emotions very well and react to minor changes in their environment.

Slow-To-Warm-Up or Fearful

Children with fearful temperaments are categorized by their shyness. They are often not very approachable and struggle when in a new or changed environment.

However, besides those traits, it is a toss-up as to what the rest of the fearful child’s temperament may be like. For example, after adjusting to new surroundings, the child may exhibit a happy and active demeanor or may be sullen and sedentary.

What if My Child Doesn’t Fit Into Any of These Categories?

If your child does not fit perfectly into any of these categories, then don’t fret. About 35% of children have a mix of traits that don’t automatically categorize them as easy, feisty, or fearful. Instead, these children often exhibit habits in either two or all three categories, making their temperament a bit more unique.

Final Thoughts

Whether categorized or not, understanding your child’s temperament and traits will help you create a lifestyle and environment that supports your child’s needs. Instead of resisting or trying to correct the disagreeable traits, you can find creative ways to work with your child’s behavioral style.

If you struggle to find a way to support your child, or your child has a trait that is making your home routine challenging, then discuss your child’s temperament with a psychologist or pediatrician.

Author Bio: Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.


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