Behavior of infants with iron-deficiency anemia

Child Dev. 1998 Feb;69(1):24-36.


This study tested the hypothesis that infants with iron-deficiency anemia show behaviors, such as increased proximity to caregivers, increased wariness or hesitance, and decreased activity, that could contribute to "functional isolation." The behavior of 52 Costa Rican 12- to 23-month-old infants with iron-deficiency anemia was contrasted with that of 139 comparison group infants with better iron status during free play and mental and motor testing and in the home. Infants with iron-deficiency anemia maintained closer contact with caregivers; showed less pleasure and delight; were more wary, hesitant, and easily tired; made fewer attempts at test items; were less attentive to instructions and demonstrations; and were less playful. Adult behavior also differed. The results indicate that iron-deficiency anemia in infancy is associated with alterations in affect and activity, suggesting that functional isolation is a useful framework for understanding poorer developmental outcome in iron-deficiency anemia, the world's most common single nutrient deficiency.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / psychology*
  • Child Development / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior / psychology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology
  • Motor Skills / physiology