Do temperament questionnaires really measure temperament, or parent's perceptions of temperament?
"Subjectivity" is a strongly debated issue in the field of
temperament. Researchers concerned with accurate measurement have
doubted the value of parental reports, particularly through
Clearly, questionnaire ratings reflect both the child's
temperament and characteristics of the rater. The child is seen
through the lens of the parent's subjectivity. Whether that fact
represents a source of "noise" and therefore a problem depends on
In research, the goal is to find truth. The more bias-free the
measurements, the more accurate the report and the more likely the
underlying relationships between elements under study will emerge
But in a web site of this kind, the goal is more than giving
back to parents an accurate reflection of their child's
temperament, or accurate predictions of issues likely to occur in
the short-term. We want to change how parents see their child.
In our initial work with health maintenance organizations,
parents told us that just completing the temperament questionnaire
helped them see their child's temperament more clearly... even
before they received back the results! The effort and thought they
put into answering the questions changed how they saw their child.
So "subjectivity", rather than just noise that blurs the
signal, is here a central focus. A reliable profile is important,
but only as a means to a more reliable parent. Our goal is to help
you see in more detail your child's temperament and understand how
For this reason, the Image Of Your Child section asks for your
General Impressions of your child's temperament, as well as answers
to the more specific, temperament questionnaire items. General
Impressions are more likely to capture your initial preconceptions.
For example, most parents like to think of their child as "sensitive". Few want to think they produced an insensitive clod.
So when differences emerge between these General Impressions and
scale score results, parents are prompted to reconsider their
We also recommend parents fill out the temperament
questionnaire and General Impressions at 4-5 months, then continue
to look for signs of their child's emerging temperament and
complete both forms again around 8 months of age. The results will
probably be different. The child's temperament may have changed or,
given more time to see their child's temperament and think through
initial preconceptions, parents' perceptions may have changed.