Birth Weight May Affect Adult Personality Traits

Shyness, timidity and risk aversion more common in adults born at extremely low weights

THURSDAY, July 10 (HealthDay News) -- Young adults who were born at extremely low birth weights may be more cautious, shy, risk aversive and introverted than their normal birth weight peers, traits that could increase their risk for future psychiatric and emotional problems, according to study findings published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

Louis A. Schmidt, Ph.D., of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues used four well-validated personality measures to compare 71 young adults who were born at extremely low birth weights (501-1,000 grams) and had no major impairments, with 83 young adults who were born at a normal birth weight.

The researchers found that extremely low birth weight adults had significantly higher levels of shyness, behavioral inhibition, risk aversion and adherence to societal mores. They also found that extremely low birth weight adults had lower levels of sociability and emotional well-being.

"Our study highlights the need to consider multiple components of personality and how early stress can impact the developmental sequela of socioemotional and personality processes," the authors conclude. "Future research should examine the potential differences between extremely low birth weight and normal birth weight groups on more objective theoretically derived behavioral (e.g., measures of direct behavioral observation in stressful situations) and psycho-physiological (e.g., measures of electrocortical and cardiovascular responses in resting and stressful situations) measures that are known to index underlying personality and socioemotional processes in addition to the subjective self-report measures used herein."

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