In 1977, the New York Longitudinal Study was conducted to study certain behavioral traits of infants. From that study, psychiatrists were able to classify infants onto four “temperament types” – Difficult babies, easy babies, show-to-warm-up babies and a final category, consisting of the 35 percent of infants they were unable to classify.
With these categories, we can begin to see how caregiving behaviors can alter, mitigate, or encourage certain traits in infants. For difficult babies, those who are more fearful, more active, and keep a more irregular schedule, active and intentional care can make the child less vulnerable to the later adjustment problems that are prevalent within that category. In the case of easy babies, those who are more placid, more positive, and more regular in their schedules, effective and engaged caregivers are still necessary. While these children can tolerate a range of responsiveness without developing adverse reactions, their resilience does have a limit. Also worth noting, these children can suffer from over-stimulation if caregivers attempt to engage these children beyond the level they find comforting. Slow-to-warm-up babies are similar to difficult babies in their initial reactions, being wary of new situations, fearful, or having short attention spans. The difference is noted in the duration and intensity of their reaction. Their reactions are less intense and can be mitigated through attentive caregiving.
Given this information, it seems like a natural conclusion that some children would be easier to parent than others. This is true, but intentional parenting can always make a difference, even in the most difficult of situations.