The early social environment of premature and fullterm infants.
The behaviors of 10 mothers of prematures and 29 mothers of fullterms were compared from 7-h observations made in the home when the infants were 2, 3, 4 and 5 weeks post-term. The observation day was divided into four mutually exclusive interactional contexts that together made up the total day: feeding time, changing or bathing time, time when the mother and infant were in physical contact but the mother was not caretaking, and time the infant was alone. Measures of ten maternal behaviors were also compared: moving, rocking, patting, caressing, talking, looking, engaging in vis-a-vis with the baby, holding or carrying, smiling or laughing, and stimulating the baby to suck. Mothers of prematures left their infants alone more and changed them less than mothers of fullterms. In addition, mothers of prematures moved their infants less often, talked to their infants less, looked at their infants less, and held their infants less. These results indicate that, over the 7-h day, prematures receive markedly less stimulation than fullterms. Since the neurobehavioral characteristics of premature and fullterm infants are known to differ, it is suggested that these differences in maternal behaviors may be in response to infant cues and appropriate for the infants.
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