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Infant Behav Dev. 2013 Jun;36(3):289-97. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2013.02.006. Epub 2013 Mar 30.

Emotional reactivity at 12 months in very preterm infants born at <29 weeks of gestation.

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Child Clinical Neuropsychology Unit, University of Geneva, Switzerland.


The present study evaluated the socio-emotional development of very preterm born infants at 12 months corrected age. Forty-one infants born very preterm (<29 weeks of gestation) were compared to 22 infants born full term on a standardized behavioral assessment and a parental temperament questionnaire, both measuring emotional reactivity to joy, anger and fear, as well as sustained attention. The behavioral assessment showed that very preterm infants exhibited as much joy as full term infants during a joy-eliciting episode. However, they expressed a significantly higher reactivity in anger-eliciting situations and a reduced reactivity toward fear-eliciting situations. For all three emotion-eliciting situations, the preterm infants reacted with a higher level of motor activity. The preterm infants also exhibited a distinct attention pattern with a significantly higher initial attention level which declined rapidly throughout the episode. The questionnaire did not show any group differences. The clinical relevance of these results in terms of preliminary hallmarks of later behavioral difficulties such attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder are discussed as well as the inconsistencies observed between the questionnaire and the behavioral assessment.

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