The temperament of a group of preterm infants (n = 126) was studied as part of a large, longitudinal study of infant temperament and behavior in a representative sample of Austrialian infants (n = 2443). Utilizing the Infant Temperament Questionnaire of Carey and McDevitt, previously revised and validated for an Australian population, ratings were made at 4 to 8 months corrected age, and data for the preterm group (less than 37 weeks gestation) were compared to those infants born at term (37 to 41 weeks). There were no significant differences between the two groups on any of the sociodemographic variables, on the mother's global rating of temperament, or on the reported incidence of colic, sleep problems, and excessive crying. There were also no differences between premature and full-term infants on any of the individual dimensions or clinical categories of temperament. We conclude that prematurity per se does not affect observed temperament at 4 to 8 months. However, we cannot extend these conclusions to high-risk infants who experience medical complications of prematurity, and who require intensive care for prolonged periods of time. These may represent an entirely different category of risk for subsequent difficult temperament and behavior problems.
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