The relationship between behavior and physiological regulation in the newborn infant is examined from an evolutionary perspective. It is argued that the newborn's behavior contributes to the resolution of physiological disturbances which arise during the transition from fetal to extrauterine life. The implications of this functional perspective are that: (a) "normal" variation in physiological status may be a potent determinant of behavioral variation; (b) the monolithic "at risk" categorization of newborns obscures distinct behaviors which evolved in response to specific complications; (c) the day-to-day stability of a measure of newborn behavior should not be used as the metric in assessing that measure's utility; and (d) the absence of a significant correlation between newborn behavior and later developmental status may reflect behavior's contribution to the successful resolution of an early complication that would otherwise have resulted in a subsequent deficit. © 1983 Ablex Publishing Corporation.
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