The nine traits of temperament: Adaptability

Understanding your child’s adaptability can help you understand and support your child.


Temperament refers to personality traits that determine how someone reacts to the world. Are they quiet or rambunctious? Easygoing or apprehensive? The traits of temperament are mostly innate traits that we are born with, although they can be influenced by an individual’s family, culture or their experiences. A person’s temperament style plays a role in how they behave and how they interact with other people and within their world.

There are nine different traits of temperament. In this article, we will explore the trait of adaptability.


Adaptability means how easily someone can adjust to change or new situations. Highly adaptable people can easily switch from one activity or location to another, without any problems. Those who are less adaptable need to take time to feel comfortable with change or new situations. Moving from one place or activity to another may be more difficult for individuals who are slow to adapt.

Highly adaptable

Children who are highly adaptable will be able to transition from one activity to another without much trouble. They will move from playtime to lunchtime to naptime, without having any trouble.

Slow to adapt

Children who are slow to adapt will have a harder time moving from one activity to another. They may react very strongly to being told that playtime is over and may have a hard time with different transitions during the day.

Parenting and adaptability

Adaptable children may appear to be more “easy,” and you may not have trouble getting them to move from one activity to another throughout the day. Children who are slower to adapt may need more understanding and warnings from you when things are going to change. Start giving warnings when your child will need to shift from one activity to another, like picking up their toys and heading into bath time. Slower to adapt children do better when they know what to expect, so try to keep a regular routine.

Letting your daily schedule and expectations vary to meet your child’s adaptability can prevent conflict and stress. It will also allow your child to have their needs met in a way that plays to their strengths and builds upon their natural temperament.

For more information about children and temperament, check out the other articles in this series:

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read the 2016 impact report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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