Objectives. Although most infants born prematurely do not have major developmental problems, those with perinatal medical problems and lengthy stays in the neonatal intensive care unit are at risk for sensory modulation problems and developmental sequelae. This study compared sensory responsiveness in preterm and full-term infants and examined the relationship of sensory responsiveness to temperament and developmental function.

Method. Caregivers of infants with (n = 45) and without (n = 22) prematurity were asked to complete the Sensory Rating Scale. The preterm infants were also evaluated with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, Second Edition (BSID-II).

Results. The preterm infants exhibited more frequent behaviors indicating tactile defensiveness and difficult temperament than did the full-term infants. When specific items were examined, the preterm infants displayed sensory-seeking behaviors and high activity levels. As measured by caregivers report, sensory responsiveness was significantly related to temperament. It was not related to BSID-II Mental and Psychomotor scale scores.

Conclusion. This study supports the findings of others that preterm infants have mild problems in sensory responsiveness and temperament. Correlational results do not support a definitive relationship between parents reports of their infants sensory responsiveness and developmental function.

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