Difficult Children

A small group of infants and children can be classified as temperamentally difficult based on their negative mood, difficulty adapting to change, and unpredictability. This entry describes the history that preceded the identification of this group and summarizes implications of difficult temperament for child outcomes and parent–child relationships.

Historical Overview

In the late 1960s, two seminal works were published that decisively changed how scientists thought about the role of children in family relationships. Up until that point, most assumed that parenting behavior affected child outcomes in a unidirectional manner. Richard Q. Bell criticized this assumption and pointed out that children, by virtue of their unique characteristics and behaviors, may play a more active role in their own development by engaging in behaviors that elicit specific parenting behaviors. ...

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