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Can Mothers Predict Childhood Behavioural Inhibition in Early Infancy?



Background:  Focusing on early identification of developmental risk factors, this study examined the question whether maternal report of child behaviour during early infancy is related to a laboratory measure of behavioural inhibition at 14 months of age.

Method:  A sample of 101 mother-infant pairs was recruited from local obstetric units. The Infant Behaviour Questionnaire (IBQ) was presented at 4 months postnatal age. Child behavioural inhibition was assessed at 14 months in a laboratory procedure.

Results:  Infant distress to novelty as measured by the IBQ at 4 months postnatal age was found to be associated with toddler’s fear score/behavioural inhibition at 14 months (p = .003). Distress-to-limitations subscore, smile/laughter subscore, activity subscore, and soothability subscore of the IBQ showed no correlation with behavioural inhibition.

Conclusions:  Behavioural inhibition, as a potential risk factor for childhood shyness and anxiety, can be predicted by maternal judgment of infant distress to novelty at age 4 months. The Infant Behaviour Questionnaire therefore might be used to identify infants presumably at risk for childhood anxiety disorders.