For much of the 20th century, neonatal assessment focused on the so-called primitive reflexes and postural reactions, and was intended to identify problems or abnormalities as early as possible in the life cycle. Assessment scales were based on the assumption that the newborn infant was indeed a “blank slate,” a reflex organism, operating at a brain-stem level. However, a growing body of research on newborn capabilities in the 1970s led to a greater appreciation of the human newborn as a responsive organism, capable of organized behavior. With the development of the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS), the scope of newborn assessment was expanded to include detailed descriptions of infant competencies and the full range of individual differences in newborn behavior. This entry provides an overview ...

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