A descriptive study of facial expressions during Brazelton Neonatal Behavior Assessments

Tiffany M Field, Reena Greenberg, Rob Woodson, Debra Cohen, Robert Garcia

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5 Scopus citations


The facial expressions of 96 term and preterm neonates were recorded during the Brazelton Neonatal Behavior Assessment. The expressions that occurred most frequently during the neurological reflex items were interest, disgust, sadness, and crying. The predominant facial expression during the orienting items was that of interest. Although happy and surprised faces were more common during the orienting than the reflex items, they occurred very infrequently. Some of the reflex items elicited more negative expressions than others and some of the orienting items elicited more frequent expressions than others and some of the orienting items elicited more frequent expressions of interest than others, suggesting that facial expressions might reflect the degree to which the stimuli were experienced as pleasant or unpleasant and more or less interesting. Although the examiner's face and voice were more effective than inanimate stimuli in eliciting positive expressions in term neonates, the reverse was true for preterm neonates. Thus facial expressions may provide additional information on the degree to which neonates experience stimulation as pleasant/unpleasant and on individual differences in responsiveness to physical and social stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-71
Number of pages11
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1984


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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