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Difficult Babies Can Thrive
May 15, 2008
It is the marriage of the soul with Nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination.
-Henry David Thoreau
Some recent research offers reassurance to parents of "difficult" babies " those who cry a lot, are very active, and have trouble adapting to new people or situations. A study reported in Work & Family Life (May 2008; www.workandfamilylife.com) and conducted by researchers at Indiana University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed that difficult babies could do as well or better in school than 'easy' babies. The study followed infants from 1,300 families in 10 geographic areas of the U.S. from birth through first grade.

The study found that, with excellent parenting, the first graders who were "difficult as infants" had as good or better grades, social skills, and relationships with teachers and peers compared with the first graders who were less difficult as infants and also experienced excellent parenting. The research suggests the importance of identifying babies with a difficult temperament during infancy and getting the support parents may need to help them plan and implement interventions.


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Comments (5)

Displaying All 5 Comments
NINETTE SHORTER · May 16, 2008
CAMARILLO, CA, United States


In their book entitled "The Fussy Baby Book : Parenting Your High-Need Child From Birth to Age Five," Dr. William Sears and his RN wife, Martha, describe how babies who are more vocal ("fussy," "difficult" etc) about getting their needs met are also more successful in doing so. The Sears also write that whether vocal or not, all babies (even the "easy" ones) have the same needs as the babies who are more vocal about it. Just perhaps, those babies whose needs are heard and met are those who are more likely to thrive.

Gay McTate · May 16, 2008
omaha, nebraska, United States


Although I found this interesting and would like to read more about the research I was very distressed to see babies referred to as "difficult babies"- I thought that the "people first" movement would have helped us all understand how damaging this can be. In addition I think this labels children who have a particularl temperment unfairly. There are children who may have may need more or different from us in terms of being soothed or learning to self soothe, or dealing with transitions but to label them as "difficult" seems to set them up to elicit negative reactions from caregivers.
I understand this word may have some historical basis, but we have rejected other "always used words" could we not find a different word to use here.

allan · May 15, 2008
dads unlimited
United States


would like to read/know their definition of "excellent parenting."
pls. tell me where i can get that.
thanks --

Deborah Schein · May 15, 2008
Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Centers Association
Cleveland, Ohio, United States


After reading this brief article, I am left wanting to read the entire research. How can I get it? Also, it seems to me that part of the success of the babies is that they were working and processing developmental milestones while other more easy going babies simply flowed through life. Interesting to ponder.
Deb Schein
early childhood education consultant and doctoral student at Walden University

Deborah Schein · May 15, 2008
Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Centers Association
Cleveland, Ohio, United States


After reading this brief article, I am left wanting to read the entire research. How can I get it? Also, it seems to me that part of the success of the babies is that they were working and processing developmental milestones while other more easy going babies simply flowed through life. Interesting to ponder.
Deb Schein
early childhood education consultant and doctoral student at Walden University



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