Infant temperament and cardiac vagal tone: Assessments at twelve weeks of age
Sixty 12-week-old infants participated in a laboratory study to explore the relations between temperament and cardiac vagal tone. Temperament was evaluated via laboratory observations and maternal ratings. Cardiac vagal tone, measured as the amplitude of respiratory sinus arrhythmia, was quantified from beat-to-beat heart period data collected during a resting baseline period and during the laboratory assessment of temperament. Specific hypotheses were investigated relating temperament to both basal cardiac vagal tone and changes in cardiac vagal tone during social/attention challenges. Infants with higher baseline cardiac vagal tone were rated in the laboratory as showing fewer negative behaviors and were less disrupted by the experimental procedure. Infants who decreased cardiac vagal tone during the laboratory assessment were rated on maternal report temperament scales as having longer attention spans, and being more easily soothed.