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Res Nurs Health. 2004 Dec;27(6):392-402.

The temperament of pre-term, low birth weight infants and its potential biological substrates.

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Community Health Systems, Eschbach Endowed Chair in Mental Health Nursing, UCSF School of Nursing, Box 0608-2 Koret Way, San Francisco, CA 94143-0608, USA.


Temperament profiles of pre-term, low birth weight (LBW) infants were assessed at 6 months of age using standardized norms from the Revised Infant Temperament Questionnaire (RITQ). The contributions of perinatal risk, ethnicity, and gender to various temperament dimensions were examined. The sample included 152 infants with a mean birth weight of 1687 g and a mean gestational age of 31 weeks. Eighty percent of the infants were classified as having temperaments that were difficult to manage. Irregularity of the infants' biorhythms, slowness in their ability to adapt to changes, and distractibility were the most problematic. Birth weight, gestational age, and gender were not associated with temperament. Perinatal morbidity was related to the temperament dimension of infant persistence, with implications for the infant's attention span and task performance. Euro American infants were rated as more persistent and less intense in emotional expression than were infants of other ethnic groups. Results suggest the need for a more direct assessment of the effects of neurobiological processes on development of temperament phenotypes and for measurement of temperament that is socioculturally appropriate.

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