Premature Birth and Low Birth Rate Associated With Introversion in Adulthood

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A study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood (Fetal & Neonatal Edition) suggests that people who are born very prematurely or who have a very low birth weight are at an increased risk of being introverted as adults.

Study researchers compared the personality traits of 200 26-year-olds who were either born prematurely (less than 32 weeks) and/or who had a birth weight of less than 1.5 kilograms, to 197 other young adults born in the same obstetric components at full term and with weights of normal range.

Five categories of personality traits were analyzed: agreeableness, introversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness to new experiences.

Researchers discovered that participants who were born very prematurely and/or who had a low birth weight scored higher than the controlled participants in three of the five categories that were tested: agreeableness, introversion and neuroticism.

The study further found that those born prematurely or with a low birth weight also had increased levels of autism spectrum behaviors and low levels of risk-taking. Adults who were born very prematurely and/or with a low birth weight were also less likely to gain degrees, attain high-earning employment, build and maintain relationships or have children of their own.

With the findings, researchers put together a profile for people who are born prematurely or with low birth weight. These people tend to be introverted, averse to risk taking, neurotic and exhibit autism spectrum behaviors.

The study’s lead author, professor Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick, suggests that personality profile could be essential to brain development: “Defining a general personality profile is important because this higher order personality factor may help to partly explain the social difficulties these individuals experience in adult roles, such as in peer and partner relationships and career.”

If the personality profile is identified earlier, Warwick concludes, parents could be provided with techniques to help foster their child’s social skills.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Wolke, D., et al., “Personality of adults who were born very preterm,” Archives of Disease in Childhood (Fetal & Neonatal Edition), doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2014-308007, published online 24 July 2015.
McIntosh, J., “Premature birth associated with introversion in adulthood,” Medical News Today web site, July 28, 2015;