Effects of tactile/kinesthetic stimulation on the growth, sleep/wake behavior, and activity level of premature infants in a special care nursery

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Tiffany Field - Committee Chair


Tactile/kinesthetic stimulation appears to facilitate weight gain and development in preterm infants, although the mediating factors remain unclear. In the present study 40 preterm infants treated in a special care nursery (M GA = 30 wks; M BWT = 1176 grams) were assigned to treatment and control groups based on a random stratification of gestational age, birthweight, intensive care duration, and entry weight. The treatment infants (N = 20) received tactile/kinesthetic stimulation for three 15 minute periods during three consecutive hours per day for a 10 day period. Control infants received routine hospital care. The behavioral states and activity levels of the infants were monitored prior to, during, and at the end of the treatment period. In addition, neonatal behaviors were assessed on the Brazelton Neonatal Behavior Assessment Scale (BNBAS). The treated infants averaged an 18% greater weight gain per day (33.6 vs. 28.4 grams). No significant differences were demonstrated in sleep/wake behavior and activity level between the groups. Furthermore, there were no differences between the groups on the BNBAS. Within the treatment group the infants showed greater activity during the stimulation sessions. The arousing nature of the stimulation appears to be a result of the tactile stimulation procedure. Greater weight gain may have been mediated by increased metabolic efficiency associated with the activating nature of the stimulation sessions. Future research is needed to directly assess the effect of stimulation on metabolic efficiency and to determine the differential effects of the tactile and kinesthetic stimulation.


Psychology, Developmental

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