Module 1: Promoting Mental Health in Infancy

"Goodness of Fit"Unhappy Baby with Happy Parents

The Match between Baby and Parents

“Goodness of fit” describes how well the parents’ sensitivity, reactions, and expectations match their baby’s temperament. Parents can begin to create the best “fit” possible by responding to their baby’s unique needs and behaviors and by recognizing their own characteristics and expectations.

Questions to Ask

  • How does your baby’s temperament “fit” with your own personality traits, parenting style, and expectations?
  • What do you and your partner enjoy best about your baby?
  • What is most challenging about caring for her?
  • How is your baby similar to or different from your other children?

Provider Tips

  • If the baby’s temperament differs from the parents’ or is hard to cope with, some parents may express frustration or anger with their baby. Describe how these parents can handle their feelings and avoid mistreating their baby as they work towards a better “fit”:
    • Count slowly to 20
    • Take 5 minutes to cool down
    • Leave the baby in a safe place (crib or playpen) and go to another room
    • Never hit or shake the baby

If there are other children in the family:

  • Discuss the temperaments of the other children in the family and ways the parents can adapt to the needs and personalities of each one.
  • Using the guidance listed below, help parents find ways to improve the “goodness of fit” with their baby and to deal with the challenging aspects of their baby’s temperament (response to change, intensity of responses, activity levels, mood).

Guidance for Parents

  • Your baby is special. Accept and love her for who she is. By learning what she likes, you can find the best ways to respond to her. Share fun activities and experiences with her such as talking, singing, reading, and cuddling. Even though she may seem too young to understand, you will be making your connection with her stronger.
  • Learning about your baby’s temperament can help you to understand her behaviors and to respond in ways that best “fit” her needs. One way to discover how to respond to your baby is to think about the times when things go well between the two of you. Notice your reactions and the way your baby responds.
  • Understanding yourself and recognizing your own temperament can help you adapt in ways that will improve the “fit” between you and your baby.
  • Each child in your family is different and has his or her own likes, dislikes, talents, and needs. Try to spend time alone with each child doing things you both enjoy. When planning family activities, try to do things that match the personality, needs, and interests of each family member.
Provider Resources

Age-Specific Observations of the Parent–Child Interaction PDF

Copyright Georgetown University Georgtown University Infancy