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The Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS) or (the Brazelton or the Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Scale (BNAS)) is a measure of infant behavioral development introduced in 1973 by T. Berry Brazelton.
The measure assesses an infant reaction to a variety of stimuli such as a light in the eyes, a moving ball or a rattle. The results of this easily administered series of tests has proved an effective initial assessment of children, helping in the early identification of a variety of disorders.
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. 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 caregiving strategies to enhance their earliest relationship with the child.
It evaluates a wide range of 38 behaviors to build a behavioral profile of an infant up to 2 months old. 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 caregiving strategies to enhance their earliest relationship with the child.
The Brazelton scale produces a total of 47 scores, of which 27 are behaviorial related and 20 are elicited responses. These scores meausre a variety of areas including the "neurological, social, and behavioral aspects of a newborn's functioning." 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."
The consequential validity of the Brazelton scale has been very favorable, providing a considerable research base. This scale has been used widely as a research toool 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"
- "Used it to study the effects of cocaine use in pregnancy"
- "Prenatal alcohol exposure"
- "Prenatal Iron deficiency"
- "Prenatal maternal mood"
- "Prenatal maternal dopamine levels"
- "Environmental agents"
- "Parent-infant attachment"
- "Gender differences in newborns"
- "High-risk neonates"
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." It also does not do a good job at predicting later intelligence, although the scale is supposed to asses the "infant's role in the mother-infant social relationship" from which high scores are supposed to presume "high levels of intelligence." Additionally, the test-retest reliability is very poor and generally unstable for participants who are younger than 8 years of age.
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.
Training is necessary for effective and reliable administration of the NBAS.
- Reber, A.S & Reber, E.S. (2001). Dictionary of Psychology. London. Penguin