Fetal Antecedents of Infant Temperament

Janet A. DiPietro, Denice M. Hodgson, Kathleen A. Costigan, Timothy R.B. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


This study established the emergence of stable individual differences in neurobehavioral functioning prior to birth and examined their relation to subsequent infant temperament. Fetal heart rate and movement were recorded longitudinally for 31 fetuses at 6 gestational ages beginning at 20 weeks' gestation. Maternally reported temperament data were collected at 3 and 6 months. Moderate stability in all measures except reactivity was apparent at some time before birth. By 36 weeks, fetal neurobehavior accounted for between 22% and 60% of the variance in prediction of temperament scores. In general, more active fetuses were more difficult, unpredictable, un-adaptable, and active infants. Higher fetal heart rate was associated with lower emotional tone, activity level, and predictability. We conclude that features of fetal neurobehavior provide the basis for individual differences in reactivity and regulation in infancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2568-2583
Number of pages16
JournalChild development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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