Intervention Studies

Perhaps the strongest evidence for contextual environmental influences on child temperament comes from studies where specific aspects of the child's environment are manipulated to determine whether such manipulation can influence later temperament. While such intervention studies are relatively scarce, they do provide converging evidence on the role of environment in the development of early temperament. In terms of global interventions, MacPhee, Burchinal, and Ramey (1997) compared the temperament patterns of disadvantaged infants who were enrolled in a special day care program designed to remediate cognitive deficits. While not all dimensions of temperament were influenced by day care intervention, infants in the special day care did show significantly greater increases in measures of task orientation over a 2-year period, as compared either to control infants who did not receive intervention or to infants who were in routine family care situations. These results may, in part, reflect the hybrid nature of task orientation, as discussed earlier in this chapter. Evidence which is more relevant to temperament per se comes from research by Van den Boom (1994) using a sample of highly irritable 6-month-old infants, whose mothers were enrolled in a special 3-month program designed to increase maternal sensitivity and appropriate responsivity. As compared to infants whose mothers did not receive this special intervention, infants in the intervention group were rated by observers as being more sociable, more self-soothing, and displaying lower levels of negative emotionality at 9 months of age.

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