Temperament is generally defined as “constitutionally-based individual differences in emotional, motor and attentional reactivity, and self-regulation.” It is strongly heritable and is relatively stable over time.
Temperament is often viewed as a predictor of psychological symptoms in children because certain temperament characteristics can leave children at risk. The nature of the relationship between dimensions of temperament, such as negative affectivity, and psychological disorders, such as depression, is now recognized.
In addition to leaving some children at risk for developing psychological symptoms, aspects of temperament can also play a protective role for some at-risk children. For example, a child who is predisposed to have a generally positive outlook on his or her experiences may fair better in a situation than a child who does not possess this trait. Similarly, a child may be predisposed to deal effectively with difficult situations. In addition, successfully overcoming a challenging situation may have strengthen a child’s positive feelings and regulatory capabilities.