DETERMINANTS OF TEMPERAMENT AT FOUR MONTHS IN VERY LOW BIRTH WEIGHT INFANTS
BUSHRA, ANNABELLA CHRISTINE
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The purpose of this study was (a) to investigate the relative effects and interactions of sociodemographic, medical risk, neurological and home environment variables on temperamental individuality at four months; (b) to do this in a high-risk sample of very low birth weight infants, since difficult temperament has been thought to contribute to their high-risk status; (c) to apply path analytic techniques as a way of testing hypothesized paths of influence.;Sociodemographic variables tapped include infant's sex, birth-order, and race, presence of father in the home, and family socioeconomic status. Degree of medical risk was assessed at three time points; neonatal neurobehavioral status, quality of the home environment and mother-perceived temperament were measured.;A path is proposed in which less optimal sociodemographic factors contribute only indirectly to difficult temperament; ability to orient is hypothesized to be correlated with medical risk status, as is quality of the home environment, and both of these factors are hypothesized to be positively correlated with temperament. The subjects of the study were 59 very low birth weight, Black, White and Hispanic infants of lower middle-class to poor SES.;In general, these very low birth weight infants proved to be significantly more difficult than full-term infants in other reported samples. Their mothers appeared to be more responsive and involved than those of comparable groups of full-term infants, while providing fewer appropriate play materials. In the path analysis, none of the hypothesized determinants of temperament had a statistically significant effect on temperament as measured by the Carey Infant Temperament Questionnaire. Human environment variables such as presence of father in the home, and quality of the home environment accounted for the most variability in temperament. When mother's impression of temperament was used as criterion variable in the path model, temperament was directly and significantly affected by birth-order, with first-borns being rated easier than later-borns.;The importance of personality and life circumstances of mother for her perception of infant temperament is discussed, as is the lack of statistical significance of any of the determinants hypothesized. Finally, although VLBW infants were found to be more difficult, the fact that their mothers do not consciously perceive them as such is explored.
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