There is uncertainty about the relationship between difficult temperament in infancy and reported problem behaviors later in childhood. In this study data from a large, representative community cohort (total N studied = 1583) were used to determine whether preschool behavior problems (at age 4 to 5 years) could be predicted from difficult temperament and other variables in infancy. Maternal ratings of difficult temperament on the Revised Infant Temperament Questionnaire predicted only 17.5% of those with preschool behavior problems, a percentage not significantly greater than the 14% of the total sample rated as having problems. There was some improvement in prediction when difficult temperament was added to other variables such as male sex (28%). However, mothers' overall rating of temperament was a more powerful predictor of preschool behavior problems, both alone (26.0%) and in combination with other variables such as perinatal stress (36.8%), male sex (29.5%), and non-Australian parent (29.4%). Similarly, maternal reports of infant behavior problems was a more powerful predictor of preschool behavior problems both alone (21.8%) and in combination with male sex (24.6%), low socioeconomic status (26.1%), non-Australian parent (21.8%), and nurse's overall rating of temperament (21. 8%). The best consistent predictor of later problems was the combination of mothers' overall rating of temperament and maternal reports of infant behavior problems (27.0%), especially when combined with other infant variables such as perinatal stress (35.3%), male sex (31. 5%), and non-Australian parent (30.0%). It is concluded that difficult temperament in infancy, as traditionally conceptualized and measured on the Revised Infant Temperament Questionnaire, is not on its own significantly associated with behavior problems at 4 to 5 years of age. Of far greater importance for clinicians is the significant relationship between preschool behavior problems and maternal perceptions of difficult temperament and behavior in infancy.
- Received October 17, 1991.
- Accepted June 22, 1992.
- Copyright © 1993 by the American Academy of Pediatrics