Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale

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The Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS), also known as the Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Scale (BNAS),[1] was developed in 1973 by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and his colleagues. This test purports to provide an index of a newborn's abilities, and is usually given to an infant somewhere between the age of 3 days to 4 weeks old.[1] This approach was innovative for recognizing that a baby is a highly developed organism, even when just newly born. The profile describes the baby's strengths, adaptive responses and possible vulnerabilities. This knowledge may help parents develop appropriate strategies for caring in intimate relationships to enhance their earliest relationship with the child.

The Brazelton scale produces a total of 47 scores, of which 27 are behavioral related and 20 are elicited responses. These scores measure a variety of areas including the "neurological, social, and behavioral aspects of a newborn's functioning."[1] Additionally, "factors such as reflexes, responses to stress, startle reactions, cuddliness, motor maturity, ability to habituate to sensory stimuli, and hand-mouth coordination are all assessed."[1]

Validity evidence is strong for the Brazelton scale, providing a considerable research base. This scale has been used widely as a research tool as well as a diagnostic tool for special purposes. Following is a list of various research projects that have implemented the Brazelton scale:

  • "Used to evaluate the effects of low birth weight on premature infants"[1]
  • "Used it to study the effects of cocaine use in pregnancy"[1]
  • "Prenatal alcohol exposure"[1]
  • "Prenatal Iron deficiency"[1]
  • "Prenatal maternal mood"[1]
  • "Prenatal maternal dopamine levels"[1]
  • "Environmental agents"[1]
  • "Parent-infant attachment"[1]
  • "Gender differences in newborns"[1]
  • "High-risk neonates"[1]

Despite the influence of the Brazelton scale, it has some drawbacks. The biggest is that no norms are available. Therefore, as examiners and researchers say that one infant scored higher than another one, there is no standard sample with which to compare. Further, the scores are not completely understood; further testing is required. As for validity, it has "poorly documented predictive and construct validity."[1] It also does not do a good job at predicting later intelligence, although the scale is supposed to assess the "infant's role in the mother-infant social relationship"[1] from which high scores are supposed to presume "high levels of intelligence.".[1]

Therefore, the value of the test is as a research tool and a supplement test to medical testing procedures. But as a predictor of future intelligence, it is very unsatisfactory. Because of this, some wonder what the scale is really measuring.[1]

Training is necessary for effective and reliable administration of the NBAS.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Kaplan, R. M., & Sacuzzo, D. P.(2010). Psychological Testing: Principles, Applications, & Issues, Eighth Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning
Further reading
  • Brazelton, T. Berry; Nugent, J. Kevin (2011). Neonatal behavioral assessment scale (4th ed.). London: Mac Keith Press. ISBN 978-1-907655-03-6. 
  • Brazelton, TB (1978). "The Brazelton Neonatal Behavior Assessment Scale: introduction". Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. 43 (5-6): 1–13. doi:10.2307/1165847. PMID 752799. 
  • Als, H; Tronick, E; Adamson, L; Brazelton, TB (Oct 1976). "The behavior of the full-term but underweight newborn infant". Developmental medicine and child neurology. 18 (5): 590–602. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8749.1976.tb04205.x. PMID 976613. 
  • Als, H; Tronick, E; Lester, BM; Brazelton, TB (1977). "The Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (BNBAS)". Journal of abnormal child psychology. 5 (3): 215–31. doi:10.1007/bf00913693. PMID 903518. 
  • Brazelton, TB (Feb–Mar 1983). "[Neonatal behavior evaluation scale]". Neuropsychiatrie de l'enfance et de l'adolescence (in French). 31 (2-3): 61–96. PMID 6866223. 
  • Widmayer, SM; Field, TM (May 1981). "Effects of Brazelton demonstrations for mothers on the development of preterm infants". Pediatrics. 67 (5): 711–4. PMID 7255001. 

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