Temperament and Young Children with Visual Impairments: Perceptions of Anglo and Latino Parents

By Dote-Kwan, Jamie; Chen, Deborah | Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, September 2010 | Go to article overview

Temperament and Young Children with Visual Impairments: Perceptions of Anglo and Latino Parents


Dote-Kwan, Jamie, Chen, Deborah, Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness


Abstract: This study examined the temperamental characteristics of 18 toddlers with visual impairments as reported by their Anglo and Latino (Mexican American) parents. Differences in the parents' ratings of the children's temperament were related to the children's level of visual functioning and development. No differences were related to the children's gender, and only one difference was related to the family's ethnicity.

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Children have different personalities; some are attentive and inquisitive in their interactions, while others may be disinterested or timid. These differences are examples of qualities of temperament, a child's behavioral style, or the way a child usually experiences and reacts to the environment (Thomas & Chess, 1977). Most important, differences in the temperament of young children may contribute to the ease or difficulty of caring for them. "Goodness-of-fit" is a significant related concept, which refers to the consonance between a child's disposition and the expectations of the environment that influence positive developmental outcomes (Chess & Thomas, 1992). Children with "easy" temperaments are likely to fit into a range of environments, while children with more "difficult" temperaments will have more limited options (Carey & McDevitt, 1995).

Research has suggested that family culture, child-rearing practices, and disability are factors that influence the qualities of a child's temperament (Carlson, Feng, & Harwood, 2004; Hepburn, 2003). The early childhood literature emphasizes the importance of adaptations to support children with different behavioral styles (Pelco & Reed-Victor, 2003). This article examines these factors by focusing on the temperamental qualities of toddlers with visual impairments, as reported by their Anglo and Latino parents, and the relationship of temperamental qualities to a child's level of functional vision and overall development.

Influence of culture on parenting and infants' temperament

Cultures are often characterized as having a collectivistic or individualistic orientation. Individualistic cultures (such as that of the United States) tend to focus on independence and individual accomplishments and needs, while collectivistic cultures (such as those of China and Mexico and other Latin American countries) are more concerned with interdependence and the needs of the group (Lynch & Hanson, 2004). It should be noted, however, that the characteristics of a selected "cultural group" must be used cautiously and not be generalized to the group as a whole because there is likely to be more intragroup than intergroup variation (Carlson et al., 2004). Given that early intervention programs tend to emphasize individualistic values (like independence), it is critical that providers of early intervention services learn about and respect differences in the child-rearing practices of the families they serve (Chen, 2004).

Parenting beliefs and child-rearing practices are derived from shared cultural values, life experiences, and goals for the child. Thus, a primary parenting goal is to socialize and encourage the characteristics of children's temperaments that match the families' cultural values and communities (Gartstein et al., 2006). For example, the socialization goals of Anglo-American mothers are related to their children being happy, independent, secure, self-confident, assertive, and outgoing, whereas the socialization goals of Chinese mothers are to rear children who are respectful, well-behaved, calm, considerate, and obedient (Carlson et al., 2004). A study of the temperament of infants in the People's Republic of China, the United States, and Spain found a greater number of differences between China and the United States; suggesting that this pattern of differences seems to be influenced more by an Eastern or Western orientation than by collectivistic or individualistic values (Gartstein et al. …

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