Predicting child temperament and behavior from the fetus

Janet A. DiPietro, Kristin M. Voegtline, Heather A. Pater, Kathleen A. Costigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


There remains little debate that the period before birth sets the stage for subsequent development, yet scant evidence exists showing continuity from characteristics of the individual fetus to characteristics of the child. This report examines, in two studies, whether baseline and evoked fetal neurobehavioral functioning are predictive of features of child temperament and behavior as reported by mothers when offspring were between 7 and 14 years old (M = 10.1 years). Study 1 utilizes data generated from 333 maternal-fetal pairs collected during an undisturbed condition during the second half of gestation in relation to the child temperament dimensions of behavioral inhibition and exuberance. Associations at 32 weeks gestation were detected between all features of fetal neurobehavior and behavioral inhibition. In adjusted models, slower fetal heart rate and less fetal movement were associated with significant unique variance in predicting higher levels of childhood behavioral inhibition. No associations were detected for exuberance. Study 2 focuses on the association of evoked fetal reactivity and recovery to induced maternal arousal with subsequent child behavioral difficulties in a subset of the full sample (n = 130). Greater recovery in fetal heart rate following maternal stimulation was predictive of fewer behavioral difficulties and more prosocial behavior in childhood. Results from both studies provide support for gestational origins of core individual differences that portend childhood outcomes with foundational reactivity and regulatory components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)855-870
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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