Temperament in Clinical Practice by Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas

I picked this book up thinking that it would be about the temperament of the therapist, rather than of the client. I was wrong, but it was interesting anyway.

Temperament in Clinical Practice looks at a longitudinal study of the temperaments of children. The authors compared people of different temperaments and then considered how they might react to a variety of life situations, therapy styles, and educational settings.

For a book that weighs in at more than 300 pages – in other words, about average – I made a remarkably small number of notes. For most books, I find myself filling between 3-5 pages of notes in my journal; for this one, I filled only one, and a single quotation took up half of it.

Chess and Thomas’ theory of temperament being the basic defining mechanism behind why we get along in the world the way we do means that they have an interesting way of explaining classism in society, particularly when it comes to children.

The central theme is around ‘goodness of fit’: if the temperament of a child matches well with the temperament of a parent, they are likely to to have an easier time interrelating. On the flip side, ‘poorness of fit’ makes for a stressful time all round.

There are various measures for ascertaining temperament listed in the book, as well as tips for increasing ‘goodness of fit’, both for parents and for child-centred professionals.

Temperament in Clinical Practice, then, definitely had some interesting themes and ideas. However, it was so riddled with typos and grammatical errors and misspellings that it was difficult to concentrate on what the authors were saying. I hope that at some point it is re-released following a good long session with a red pen.


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