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Goodness of Fit

By Dr. Patty Williams on August 25, 2018

BISN founder and president Dr. Patty Williams is a trauma therapist who specializes in EMDR, ND-Affirmative DBT, and IFS modalities. Through Bright Insight Support Network, she works to counsel, coach, and advocate for gifted, twice-exceptional, and neurodivergent persons, along with other marginalized populations.

Goodness of Fit

While in my developmental psychology doctoral program, a Human Prenatal Development professor who also worked as a psychologist suggested that she frequently worked with parents who believed that temperament could be changed. She asked me how parents and other caregivers might differ in their behavior toward infants and toddlers if they believe that temperament is largely unchangeable, as opposed to believing that temperament can be modified by experience.

I responded that I think this is as simple as understanding there is or is not something one can do about the situation. That is, a person could easily give in and just think: "Well, I am who I am and she or he is who they are, and we just cannot do anything about this." This is where teaching about concepts such as “love languages,” for example, can become helpful. We need to know what each member of a dyad responds to, needs, and wants, to act out of respect and acceptance. This way expectations or limits can become clear or be challenged or amended- as the case may be.

I also believe though, that temperament is a fairly stable construct. And while I also believe in human adaptability and strength, it seems we sometimes want our children to adapt and change to a neuronormative society. As we learn more about neurodivergence, I believe society's views of an ideal temperament can shift, or we can at least challenge beliefs and ideas to meet people where they are at without judgment.

Specifically considering the goodness-of-fit model (Thomas & Chess, 1977), it is presumed that all people are born with unique temperaments that adults should accept and adapt to, rather than fight or respond poorly to. That is, it is up to the adult caregivers and professionals to adjust an environment to build on the child’s strengths and offer support, rather than exaggerate a child’s struggles or change who they are.

While we cannot take all the credit as parents or blame ourselves for everything, it is largely up to us to not limit our children initially.

What a task though. I am curious about what others think.

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