OBJECTIVE. Recent studies have noted personality differences among adult survivors of very preterm birth, including higher neuroticism and cautiousness and lower extraversion. We attempted to replicate and extend these recent studies by examining personality characteristics across multiple components of personality that traditionally define personality structure in a birth cohort of young adults born at extremely low birth weight (501–1000 g), the smallest and most at-risk infants.

PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS. We assessed 71 (76% of the original birth cohort) extremely low birth weight and 83 (74% of the original cohort) term normal birth weight young adults by using well-validated personality measures, indexing 4 traditional components of personality: temperament (Cheek and Buss shyness and sociability and Eysenck neuroticism and extraversion), motivation (Carver and White behavioral inhibition and behavioral activation), cognitive and affective (Coopersmith self-esteem and University of California, Los Angeles, loneliness), and socialization (Eysenck psychoticism and lie). All of the participants were right-handed and free of neurosensory and psychiatric impairments.

RESULTS. Extremely low birth weight adults reported significantly higher shyness, behavioral inhibition, and socialization (a measure of prosocial behavior defined by risk aversion and adherence to societal mores) and lower sociability and emotional well-being than their normal birth weight counterparts, replicating and extending the findings of previous studies.

CONCLUSIONS. Young adults who were born at extremely low birth weight and without major impairments are more cautious, shy, and risk aversive and less extraverted than their normal birth weight counterparts, possibly placing them at risk for future psychiatric and emotional problems.

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