As your toddler's emotional development progresses, you will see more evidence of what your baby's long-term temperament will be like. It will take different parenting approaches to help adjust toddler behavior problems.

Toddler Emotional Development

Many scientists agree that baby temperament includes differences in levels of emotionality/irritability, activity level/energy, sociability, and attention/persistence. Studies of identical twins reveal that temperament has some genetic influences. For instance, some family members can show similar behavioral styles, like high levels of energy.

To be sure, babies differ from one another in toddler behavioral styles. But it's during the toddler years that researchers begin to find evidence for heritability and longer-term temperament influences. The behavioral styles that appear to be most heritable are activity level and irritability/negative emotionality. Even though elements of temperament are heritable, there's no guarantee that a temperament style will appear in all children in a family or even in a succeeding generation. And keep in mind that experiences matter a lot! In general, very high levels of ongoing irritability appear to be “most risky” for children's longer-term emotional development.

If your toddler shows signs of a “challenging baby temperament,” take heart. Truly sensitive and flexible parenting goes a long way in helping an irritable toddler become better at controlling his emotions. Also, keep in mind that supportive experiences matter even when genes contribute to our behaviors.

References:

  • Campbell SB. Behavior Problems in Preschool Children. New York, NY: Guilford Press; 2002. 

  • Thomas A, Chess S. Temperament and Development. New York, NY: 1977.
  • 
Brunner/Mazel, Mangione P. Flexible, Fearful, or Feisty. Child Care Video Magazine. Sacramento, CA; 1990.

  • Schaffer RH. Social Development. Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development: London UK: Blackwell; 1998.