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J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2002 Dec;23(6):430-5.

Temperament characteristics of premature infants in the first year of life.

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  • 1International Center for Research of Vulnerable Women, Children and Families, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.


Parenting preterm infants in the first months after hospital discharge is challenging. Although preterm infants are considered to be difficult, preterm temperament at less than 3 months is unknown empirically. The purpose of this analysis was to investigate the 6-week temperament characteristics of preterm infants in comparison with standardized norms of full-term infants. The sample of 74 infants with gestational ages at birth between 24 and 32 weeks were enrolled in a study of preterm infant neurobehavioral outcomes. Mothers rated temperament at 6 weeks, 6 months, and 12 months of age (adjusted for prematurity). At 6 weeks the premature infants were significantly less rhythmic (regular), more distractible (soothable), less approaching (more withdrawing), and less intense than standardized norms for full-term infants. From these data we conclude that premature infants may be initially more challenging to parent. Temperament moderated over time but remained significantly lower in persistence at 12 months. Considerable change in temperament in the first 12 months of life may be influenced by biological and environmental factors common to the premature birth experience.

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