Child behaviour linked to temperament

A preliminary finding from a survey of over 8,500 nine year old children in Ireland has shown some links between a child's temperament and delinquent behaviour.

The survey, 'Growing up in Ireland', was conducted by a study team based at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Trinity College Dublin. Selected results from the survey in relation to delinquent behaviours and temperament have been presented by Aisling Murray and Maeve Thornton (ESRI) at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Glasgow.

'Growing up in Ireland' involved 8,500 children and their parents, who were randomly selected through the primary school system. As part of the study, parents were asked to complete a set of 25 questions relating to their child's temperament (EAS Temperament Questionnaire). This provided details on four particular aspects; emotionality, activity, shyness and sociability.

Parents were also provided with a list of delinquent behaviours such as 'has been physically cruel to other people or animals' or 'has stolen items without confronting the victim' and stated whether their child had engaged in any of these in the past year. The most commonly reported behaviour was 'often lied to obtain goods or favours' and only one per cent had been physically cruel.

Aisling said: "The results suggest that there may be a link between delinquent behaviour and those children who displayed high emotionality, but this needs further investigation. The data give a useful reference point for indicating how common these types of behaviour might be in a representative, non-clinical sample."