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new thinking about the boundary between traits and illness

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this would be the one."

"If I could only own one book
on child temperament

Sanchit Maruti, MD, MS, UVM College of Medicine

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required reading

"Child Temperament should be

for all researchers in the developmental personality field."

Explore the Book

Barbara De Clercq, Ghent University, Belgium

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for parents and experts alike."

"a wonderful piece of writing

James J. Hudziak, MD, Director, Vermont Center for Children, Youth, & Families; Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine, and Pediatrics, at UVM College of Medicine

A Must-Read for All Who Work With Children.

What others are saying

  • Rettew shows that children and their parents can learn to adapt to improve their well-being despite the substantial stability of temperament. This book is a valuable guide that will benefit all clinicians, educators, and parents interested in understanding child behavior.

    C. Robert Cloninger, MD, PhD
    C. Robert Cloninger, MD, PhDWallace Renard Professor of Psychiatry, Genetics, & Psychology, Washington University
  • Child Temperament will be of enormous value to clinicians, scientists, parents, and all who are interested in the development of children.  Beautifully written in a style that is amazingly enjoyable to read, with tables and summaries that students and scientists alike will find indispensible, this is a major compilation that should anchor all future exploration of temperament and help illuminate the path forward for future work in this field.

    John N. Constantino, MD
    John N. Constantino, MDProfessor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine; Psychiatrist-In-Chief, St. Louis Children’s Hospital
  • This book is the most comprehensive and well-written resource on the subject of child temperament—a must-read for all who work in the fields of child development, pediatrics, psychology, and psychiatry. A wonderful piece of writing for parents and experts alike.

    James J. Hudziak, MD
    James J. Hudziak, MDProfessor of Psychiatry, Medicine and Pediatrics, at UVM College of Medicine

“This is a major compilation that should anchor all future exploration of temperament.”

John N. Constantino, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Washington University; Psychiatrist-In-Chief, St. Louis Children’s Hospital

Book Summary

When does a child go from being considered “active” to “hyperactive”? At what point does shyness become social anxiety disorder, or sadness become depression? The subject of personality and how kids differ from one another behaviorally has long fascinated parents, teachers, and scientists. As the definitions of psychiatric disorders change again, however, the boundaries between a diagnosable condition and “just” temperament and personality are generating more debate than ever.

The study of child temperament has come a long way since the pioneering work of Chess and Thomas. Child Temperament provides a synthesized update on what has been learned and how temperament affects the development of mental illness.

The first part of the book brings readers up to speed on current thinking related to child temperament. It outlines basic temperament dimensions and 5 major temperament types. Issues related to temperament stability over time, differences between boys and girls, and relations to birth order are also included. Dr. Rettew then reviews the neurobiology of temperament, with particular focus on the interplay between genetic and environmental influences that can conspire to make early appearing behavioral tendencies become strengthened. From there, the book delves into the association between temperament traits and psychiatric illness, using examples from his own published research and those of many others. Some current models describe temperament traits as risk factors for psychiatric disorders, while others view traits and psychiatric symptoms as lying on a single unifying continuum.

The second part of the book answers the question, “so what?” A temperament-informed view of child behavior problems can add important elements to intervention and can reduce the stigma of mental illness, benefits that have tremendous implications for parents, clinicians, and teachers. Dr. Rettew provides specific and practical suggestions for working with different temperament types in home and school settings and discusses the potential impact of medications on temperament and personality, both as a by-product of treating psychiatric disorders and potentially as an intentional target of pharmacological intervention.

Written in a straightforward style by a Harvard Medical School trained child psychiatrist, this book presents essential information on the intersection of child temperament and psychiatric disorders, and what caregivers can do in response. Armed with the latest knowledge and strategies, parents, clinicians, and teachers can propel children with particular temperamental tendencies away from more problematic trajectories, and towards improved health and wellness.

Click on “In the Book” for details about each chapter.

Child Temperament should be required reading
for all researchers in the developmental personality field.”

Barbara De Clercq, Researcher, Department of Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium

About the Author

David Rettew, M.D.

Dr. David Rettew is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.  He is the Training Director of the UVM Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship and the Director of the Pediatric Psychiatry Clinic at Fletcher Allen Health Care.  He received his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania before working at the National Institute of Mental Health.  He received his medical degree at the University of Vermont and then did both his adult and child psychiatry training at Harvard Medical School within the Massachusetts General and McLean Hospital program.  He joined the UVM faculty in 2002 where he divides his time between clinical, teaching and research activities.  His main research interest is the role of temperament and personality factors in childhood psychiatric disorders.  Dr. Rettew has over 100 published journal articles, chapters, and scientific abstracts on a variety of child mental health topics.  He is married and the father of three boys.


“An extraordinary accomplishment, filled with wise and thoughtful insights.”

Robert F. Krueger, PhD, Hathaway Distinguished Professor and Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota

Launches September 23


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