By Hogrefe Ltd's Principal Psychologist, Liz Hey (MSc, MBPsS)
In an October 2020 article we talked about the importance of focusing on children’s mental health and the growing need for assessment and intervention, including important areas such as children’s behaviour and temperament. With the increased amount of time many young children have now spent away from school, their family friends and peers, and the adversity experienced by many families during the Covid-19 pandemic, these problems may have been further exacerbated, as research is showing. Evidence indicates that there is a mounting challenge for parents, teachers and professionals to manage children’s behaviour and wellbeing, and support their learning, under new, and often complex, circumstances. Psychologists may want to focus on temperament as a way of understanding where the present difficulties lie, and to provide a framework for a plan of action.
What is temperament?
Temperament is a child’s way of responding to the world. It develops from birth. Temperament is about how they respond to people and things, how they self-regulate and how social they are. It can explain how children react to novel situations, how they behave towards others and how they develop over time.
Any parent is able to describe their child in these terms. They may notice differences between siblings or in their children compared to others. Parents and early years teachers may be concerned that a child’s behaviour is disruptive to the home or the school environment and want to take action to rectify it. Focusing on temperament, enables parents and early years teachers to identify, by observing their behaviour, where there may be problem areas which can then be addressed.
Research into child temperament has seen major advances over the last few decades. More recent insights have identified that risk factors for the development of behaviour disorders and school failure, as well as mental health problems, and have paved the way for innovative forms of screening, prevention and treatment.
How the ICTI assesses temperament
The Integrative Childhood Temperament Inventory (ICTI) is used by child psychologists to help screen for temperament traits in young children. The ICTI is a short screening test of 30 items measuring five dimensions: Frustration/Anger, Behavioural Inhibition, Attention/Persistence, Activity Level and Sensory Sensitivity.
The ICTI has been extensively validated and normed both for the UK and the US in children aged 2–8. Further global research has also shown its value as a reliable predictor of risk behaviour in young children.
The author of the ICTI, Dr Marcel Zentner, speaks about the test as being the first standardised and extensively normed assessment of child temperament for use in applied settings.
”Particular attention was given to make it suitable for use by practitioners in applied contexts. In addition, it seemed important to me to write a manual that has extensive information on issues of interpretation, feedback, and on ways to integrate temperament concepts in existing and novel forms of prevention, intervention and treatment.
I hope that through the availability of the ICTI, the potential of temperament research for understanding and helping children with behavioural and emotional difficulties can be more broadly realised.”
The ICTI has clinical and educational value as a pre-diagnostic screening tool. The resulting profile across the five temperament dimensions can be used to identify potential problem areas, or to provide reassurances about a child’s current behaviour. What the ICTI can show is helpful for framing conversations between psychologists, parents and teachers and in the design of helpful interventions or treatment programmes in the home or school environment.
Benefits of the new online version
In addition to the paper and pencil version, the ICTI can now be administered online through the Hogrefe Test System. Test users rate 30 items about the child, such as “Is even-tempered, easy to manage” using a simple scoring programme. They can then download the test results in an easy-to-read report which can be used for tracking and development.
The test takes no longer than 30 minutes to administer. Scores are compared against norms (available for girls and boys) and automatically calculated to give composite scores across the 5 scales. A report is produced giving a graphical profile and a helpful narrative for the psychologist to use for conversations with parents / carers or for the basis of future interventions.
If you would like to discuss getting started with the ICTI, feel free to contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on +44 1865 797920.
1] Department of Education; Department of Health and Social Care (October, 2020). State of the Nation report: Effect of pandemic on children's wellbeing: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/effect-of-pandemic-on-childrens-wellbeing-revealed-in-new-report
Mental Health Foundation, summary of global research publications: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/impacts-lockdown-mental-health-children-and-young-people
Ofsted (December, 2020) COVID-19 isolation having detrimental impact on children’s education and welfare, particularly the most vulnerable https://www.gov.uk/government/news/covid-19-isolation-having-detrimental-impact-on-childrens-education-and-welfare-particularly-the-most-vulnerable
2] Zentner, M. & Shiner, R. (2012). Fifty years of progress in temperament research: A synthesis of major themes, findings, challenges and a look forward. In M. Zentner & R. Shiner (Eds), Handbook of Temperament (pp. 673-700). New York, NY: Guildford Press.
3] Forbes, M. K., Rapee, R. M., Camberis, A. et al. (2017) Unique Associations between Childhood Temperament Characteristics and Subsequent Psychopathology Symptom Trajectories from Childhood to Early Adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 45, 1221–1233.
See also ICTI manual available from Hogrefe Ltd. here