Prematurity stereotyping: effects on mother-infant interaction

Child Dev. 1986 Apr;57(2):308-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1986.tb00030.x.


The possibility that the self-fulfilling prophecy process can adversely affect the caregiving environment of premature infants was explored in this study. A portion of this process was investigated experimentally by assessing cognitive and behavioral reactions of 27 mothers to unfamiliar full-term infants who were labeled either full-term or premature. Infants who were described as premature were touched less and given a more immature toy to play with, were rated as smaller, finer-featured, and less cute, and were liked less than infants who were labeled full-term. In turn, infants labeled premature were less active during the interaction than infants labeled full-term. College students who later observed the videotapes made of the mother-infant interactions were able to accurately guess which label was assigned to the infants. The results of this study further support the existence of a prematurity stereotype and the impact of expectations on perceptions and behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Care
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature* / psychology*
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Play and Playthings
  • Set, Psychology
  • Stereotyping*