Do temperament questionnaires measure the child's temperament, or parent's perceptions of temperament?
Measuring temperament is not exact, like taking a child's temperature. If a child has moderate energy, a low-energy parent may say this looks like high energy and a high energy parent may say this looks like low energy. Or a parent who has spent time with many young children will have a more accurate understanding of the energy of an average 3 year old.
Even though the questions on the questionnaire are chosen to minimize these differences, results reflect both the child's temperament and characteristics of the parent. Some researchers concerned with accurate measurement doubt the value of parent reports regarding temperament. When the goal of research is to find the "truth," having one well-trained person rate a whole group of children would obviously be better.
The goal of the Preventive Ounce is to give parents a more accurate understanding of who their child is and how their child's temperament works. In our initial studies with health maintenance organizations, parents told us that just thinking about how to answers the questions helped them see their child more clearly... even before they received back the results! On our website, a reliable profile is important, but only as a means to a more reliable parent.
For this reason, the Preventive Ounce questionnaires have two parts. The first asks for your General Impressions of your child's temperament-your preconceptions. The second part asks about very specific behaviors that are temperament related. When a marked difference appears between your general impression and how the child's actual behavior compares with that of others, you have an opportunity to reconsider your preconception. We recommend that parents fill out a questionnaire and then fill out another one in 4 or 5 months. The results may be similar or different. If different, your child's temperament may have changed, or how you see your child may now be more accurate.