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Type A: from the nursery to the boardroom.

Moms with certain Type A characteristics are more likely to deliver newborns with intense behavioral styles, according to a new study.

Previous investigations have shown that Type A parents tend to have teenagers who are competitive and hard-driving (SN: 8/31/85, p.133), a pattern that persists into adulthood and may increase the risk of heart disease. While many psychologists say teens learn their Type A tendencies from Mom and Dad, the new study suggests that certain aspects of the Type A drive may surface at birth -- long before parenting styles come into play.

Pediatrician Steven J. Parker of Boston City Hospital and David E. Barrett of Clemson (S.C.) University studied 72 healthy, middle-class women who were pregnant with their first child. Four weeks before delivery, the women completed the Jenkins Activity Survey (JAS), which identifies Type A traits such as competitiveness and impatience. Although the test is designed to elicit Type A temperament regardless of employment status, nearly all the pregnant women in the study worked at jobs outside the home.

The team discovered that 53 percent of the volunteers fit the Type A criteria, as measured by the job involvement scale, one component of the JAS. These women tended to get highly involved in tasks both at home and at the office, Parker says. For example, women said they frequently finished other people's sentences in order to speed the conversation and described themselves as people who enjoy competition on the job or in outside activities.

Hard-driving women tended to deliver newborns who responded vigorously to their environment, Parker says. All babies born to women in the study were given a standardized behavioral test within 48 hours of birth. Babies of Type A mothers cried significantly more during the test, the team reports in the March PEDIATRICS. On the other hand, these newborns did not appear crankier or more difficult to handle than infants born to the more laid-back, Type B mothers, Parker says.

Does a baby inherit a certain fervor for life? Parker admits that his study leads to such speculation, but he says there are other possible explanations for the group's finding. For example, Type A mothers may churn out stress hormones that affect the fetus during pregnancy and perhaps influence the newborn's behavior as well, he says.

Once a newborn leaves the hospital and goes home, the story becomes more complicated. Type A parents may teach infants and children their hard-driving ways, Parker admits.

Parker notes that the term Type A was originally used to describe the temperament of certain middle-aged men. Nobody really knows whether Type A traits adequately describe the behavior of women, he adds.

Meyer Friedman, who studies Type A traits at the University of California, San Francisco, says the JAS is an "inadequate" measure of Type A behavior, a problem that may have skewed the study's results. And psychologist Karen Matthews of the University of Pittsburgh notes that the researchers failed to link overall Type A behavior with infant temperament. Only women who were very committed to their work had more intense newborns, she says.

Despite the uncertainties, Parker believes the study does provide parents with some practical tips.

"Babies are born with different temperaments," he says. While Type A moms may be more likely to deliver highly animated babies, some will find that their babies fit the slower-moving, Type B profile. And some Type B moms may find it hard to keep up with a ball-of-fire youngsters. For harried parents everywhere, Parker offers some laissez-faire advice: Respect your baby's behavioral style.
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Title Annotation:personality characteristics from birth
Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 21, 1992
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