The differential susceptibility (DS) model suggests that temperamentally prone-to-distress infants may exhibit adverse outcomes in negative environments but optimal outcomes in positive environments. This study explored temperament, parenting, and 36-month cognition and behavior in preterm infants using the DS model. We hypothesized that temperamentally prone to distress preterm infants would exhibit more optimal cognition and fewer behavior problems when early parenting was positive; and less optimal cognition and more behavior problems when early parenting was less positive.
Participants included 109 preterm infants (gestation < 37 weeks) and their mothers. We assessed neonatal risk and basal vagal tone in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU); infant temperament and parenting interactions at 9 months postterm; and child behavior and cognitive skills at 36 months postterm. Hierarchical regression analyses tested study hypotheses.
Temperamentally prone-to-distress infants exhibited more externalizing problems if they experienced more critical parenting at 9 months (β= -.20, p<0.05) but fewer externalizing problems with more positive parenting. Similarly, variations in maternal positive affect (β= .25, p< .01) and intrusive behaviors (β= .23, p< .05) at 9 months predicted 36-month cognition at high but not at low levels of infant temperamental distress. Higher basal vagal tone predicted fewer externalizing problems (β= -.19, p< .05).
Early parenting behaviors relate to later behavior and development in preterm infants who are temperamentally prone to distress, and neonatal basal vagal tone predicts subsequent externalizing behaviors. These findings suggest that both biological reactivity and quality of caregiving are important predictors for later outcomes in preterm infants and may be considered as foci for developmental surveillance and interventions.
Behavior; IQ; Vagal Tone; Parenting; Preterm; Temperament
The study investigated family support as a buffer of stress in 153 mothers and preterm toddlers. Data were collected regarding maternal depressive symptoms, parenting stress, and family support; infant health; and videotaped mother-child interactions. Although more parenting stress related to less optimal child play, only information support functioned as a protective factor. Information support predicted positive play under high, but not low, maternal stress. Mothers of multiples reported more parenting stress than mothers of singletons.
child; interactions; mother; preterm; stress; twins
Preterm infants are at risk for cognitive difficulties due to infant neurological immaturity and family social disadvantage, and this may be exacerbated by maternal depressive symptoms. This longitudinal study of infants born preterm (<35 weeks) or low birth weight (<2500 grams) (n=137) tests if maternal depressive symptoms at 4 months is associated with preterm children’s cognitive function at 16 months. Additionally, we test if this association is mediated by the quality of parent-child interaction at 9 months, and if these associations differ by levels of maternal social support. Children’s cognitive function was measured using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, 2nd edition. Maternal depressive symptoms were measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Perceived social support was measured using the Maternal Support scale. The quality of parent-child interaction was measured using the Parent-Child Early Relational Assessment. Linear regression and structural equation modeling were used to test the research questions. Postnatal depression at 4 months is associated with lower cognitive function (mean difference=−5.22, 95% CI:[−10.19, −0.25]) at 16 months controlling for a host of socioeconomic characteristics. For mothers with fewer depressive symptoms, bolstering effects of maternal supports on children’s cognitive function were evident. We find no evidence for effect mediation by quality of parent-child interaction. Early exposure to maternal depressive symptoms appears to have a negative influence on preterm children’s later cognitive function. These findings suggest important policy and programmatic implications for early detection and intervention for families of preterm infants.
postnatal depression; parent-child interaction; preterm birth; cognitive function
Among families of infants born preterm, the association between postnatal depression and children’s cognitive function is not well understood, but thought to be compromised. The purpose of this study is to investigate maternal depressive symptoms and perceived social support as predictors of children’s cognitive function trajectories.
This is a longitudinal study of a sample of infants born preterm (less than 37 weeks) in Wisconsin. This study includes 130 infants who were hospitalized in one of three Wisconsin neonatal intensive care units in 2002–2005 and followed until 36 months of age. Maternal depressive symptoms were measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Social support was measured using the Maternal Support scale. Children’s cognitive function was measured using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, 2nd edition, and the Stanford-Binet Intelligence scale, 5th edition.
Children’s cognitive function trajectories declined initially and then increased. Being female [coefficient=5.14, s.e.=1.89] and non-poor [coefficient =11.26 s.e=5.78], and having a mother who has a graduate degree [coefficient =7.67, s.e.=3.37)] was associated with higher levels of cognition initially. Being white was associated with a more optimal cognitive trajectory. Although depression did not predict children’s cognitive trajectories, the presence of clinically-elevated depressive symptoms at 9 months postterm was associated with lower cognitive functioning at 16 months when mothers reported low social support.
Postnatal depressive symptoms appear to have a meaningful, dynamic influence on the cognitive outcomes of children born preterm, above and beyond family socio-demographic risk when the presence and timing of perceived social support is considered. Interventions to ameliorate developmental risk associated with preterm birth should include repeated assessments of maternal social support and postnatal depression and be targeted toward socially disadvantaged families.
preterm birth; cognitive function; maternal depression; social support
Infants born preterm are at elevated risk for social emotional difficulties. However, factors contributing to this risk are largely understudied. Within the present study, we explored infant sleep as a biosocial factor that may play a role in infant social emotional development. Within a prospective longitudinal design, we examined parent-reported sleep patterns and observed parenting quality as predictors of infant-mother attachment in 171 infants born preterm. Using structural equation modeling, we examined main effect and moderator models linking infant sleep patterns and parenting with attachment security. Sleep patterns characterized by more daytime sleep and positive/responsive parenting predicted infant attachment security. Parent-reported nighttime sleep patterns were unrelated to attachment in this sample of infants born preterm. These results indicate that daytime sleep and parenting quality may be important for emerging attachment relationships in infants born preterm.
sleep; attachment; preterm
To determine the effectiveness of policy-driven therapy (ie, Part C early intervention [EI]) in the context of varying maternal supports among preterm infants in Wisconsin.
A longitudinal study of mother–infant dyads recruited from 3 newborn intensive care units in southeastern Wisconsin. Participation in EI-based therapy was collected at 36 months via parent-report. Cognitive function was measured at 16 months by use of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (Mental Developmental Index), 2nd edition and at 24 and 36 months postterm via use of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence scale, 5th edition. Maternal support was measured at 4 months with the Maternal Support Scale. Propensity score matching was used to reduce selection bias. Latent growth models of matched pairs estimated the effect of EI therapy on cognitive function trajectories. Ordinary least squares regression estimated the differential effect of EI therapy on cognitive function at 16, 24, and 36 months postterm for mothers reporting more maternal supports.
Of the 128 infants, 41 received EI therapy and, of those, 32 (78%) were successfully matched with controls. The results of the matched analysis (n = 64) reveal that 1) receipt of therapy is inversely associated with cognitive function baseline (P = .04) and positively associated with trajectories (P =.03), 2) the number of maternal supports is positively associated with cognitive function for families receiving Part C early intervention, at 16 months (P = .05), 24 months (P <.01), and 36 months (P = .05) postterm.
Participation in EI therapy may be associated with more optimal cognitive function trajectories. Among preterm children whose mothers have more supports, receiving therapy appears particularly beneficial.
cognitive function; part C early intervention; preterm birth
Data from the Nurse-Family Partnership intervention program were analyzed to compare the “selection” versus “unique” effects of maternal jail time on adolescent antisocial and health risk outcomes. Data from 320 women and their first-born children were available from the prenatal, birth, and 15-year assessments. Consistent with a selection perspective, prenatal and demographic risks directly and indirectly related to many adolescent antisocial outcomes. Maternal conviction and arrest were also associated with adolescent contact with the criminal justice system and health risk behaviors. Maternal jail time predicted whether or not children had ever been stopped by police, sent to youth corrections, or run away from home. However, these associations were not significant after controlling for prenatal risk factors and maternal conviction and arrest. The results highlight the importance of maternal criminality and other risk factors in children’s environments, including prenatal variables.
Although children born preterm or low birth weight (PT LBW) are more likely to exhibit behavior problems compared to children born at term, developmental and family processes associated with these problems are unclear. We examined trajectories of maternal depressive symptoms in relation to toddler compliance and behavior problems in families with PT LBW infants. A total of 177 infants (93 boys, 84 girls) and their mothers enrolled in the study during the infant’s NICU stay. Data were collected at five time points across 2 years. Assessments of maternal depressive symptoms were conducted at all time points, and toddler compliance and opposition to maternal requests and behavior problems were assessed at 2 years. Toddlers born earlier with more health problems to mothers whose depressive symptoms increased over time exhibited the most opposition to maternal requests during a cleanup task at 24 months, consistent with multiple risk models. Mothers with elevated depression symptoms reported more behavior problems in their toddlers. The study has implications for family-based early intervention programs seeking to identify PT LBW infants at highest risk for problem behaviors.
Objective We examined whether neonatal risks and maternal scaffolding (i.e., task changes and flexibility) during a 16-month post-term play interaction moderated the association between socioeconomic status (SES), visual-spatial processing and emerging working memory assessed at 24 months post-term among 75 toddlers born preterm or low birth weight. Method SES and neonatal risk data were collected at hospital discharge and mother–child play interactions were observed at 16-month post-term. General cognitive abilities, verbal/nonverbal working memory and visual-spatial processing data were collected at 24 months. Results Neonatal risks did not moderate the associations between SES and 24-month outcomes. However, lower mother-initiated task changes were related to better 24-month visual-spatial processing among children living in higher SES homes. Mothers’ flexible responses to child initiated task changes similarly moderated the impact of SES on 24-month visual-spatial processing. Conclusion Our results suggest that mothers’ play behaviors differentially relate to child outcomes depending on household SES.
low birth weight; neuropsychology; parenting; prematurity
The differential susceptibility to parenting model was examined in relation to toddler self-regulation in a prospective longitudinal study of infants born preterm or low birth weight. We followed 153 mother–infant dyads across five time points between the infant’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit stay and 24 months postterm. Assessments of infant temperament, quality of early parenting interactions, contextual variables, and toddler effortful control and behavior problems were conducted. Results supported differential susceptibility and dual risk models in addition to documenting main effects of early parenting on children’s emerging self-regulation. Our data suggested that preterm or low birth weight infants who were prone to distress or rated by mothers as more difficult were particularly susceptible to the effects of early negative parenting.
This longitudinal study examined predictors of rates of growth in dyadic interaction quality in children born preterm who did not experience significant neurological findings during neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) hospitalization. Multiple methods were used to collect data from 120 preterm infants (48% girls, 52% boys) and their mothers. Infant heart rate variability (HRV), gestational age, neonatal health, feeding route, and maternal socioeconomic (SES) risks were assessed at NICU discharge (mean of 36 weeks postconception). Mother–child interactions were observed at 4, 9, 16, and 24 months postterm and analyzed with hierarchical linear modeling. On average, children’s quality of play, interest, and attention increased over time while their dysregulation and irritability decreased, whereas average maternal positive affect and involvement declined in quality (ps < .05), although there was individual variation in rates of change. Mothers of infants with higher postfeeding HRV (i.e., vagal regulation) exhibited less decrease in positive affect and involvement between 4 months and 24 months, compared with mothers of infants with lower HRV (p < .05). Although infants with higher postfeeding HRV showed less positive affect and communication at 4 months, they exhibited significantly greater increases in positive affect and social competence and decreases in dysregulation and irritability between 4 months and 24 months, compared with infants with lower HRV (ps < .05). Dyads experiencing more SES risks showed less optimal interactions at 4 months; this difference remained as children grew older (ps < .05). Results have implications for our understanding of social development in preterm infants.
interaction quality; HRV; preterm; risk
This study explored the association between mothers' unresolved grief regarding their infant's preterm birth and infant-mother attachment security. We hypothesized that mothers with unresolved grief would be more likely to have insecurely attached infants at 16 months and that this association would be partially mediated by maternal interaction quality.
This longitudinal study focused on 74 preterm infants (age of <36 weeks) and their mothers who were part of a larger study of high-risk infants. The present analysis included assessment of neonatal and socioeconomic risks at NICU discharge; maternal depression, Reaction to Preterm Birth Interview findings, and quality of parenting at a postterm age of 9 months; and infant-mother attachment at postterm age of 16 months. Associations among findings of grief resolution with the Reaction to Preterm Birth Interview, quality of parenting interactions, and attachment security were explored by using relative risk ratios and logistic and multivariate regression models.
The relative risk of developing insecure attachment when mothers had unresolved grief was 1.59 (95% confidence interval: 1.03–2.44). Controlling for covariates (adjusted odds ratio: 2.94), maternal feelings of resolved grief regarding the preterm birth experience were associated with secure infant-mother attachment at 16 months. Maternal grief resolution and interaction quality were independent predictors of attachment security.
Maternal grief resolution regarding the experience of preterm birth and the quality of maternal interactions have important implications for emerging attachment security for infants born prematurely.
attachment; grief; parent-child interactions; preterm; resolution
Following a transactional perspective, this longitudinal study assessed concurrent and time-lagged associations between infant daytime sleep behaviors and maternal play interactions within a sample of infants born preterm.
Data were collected from 134 families recruited from 3 Wisconsin NICUs. Multiple methods were used to collect data at infant NICU discharge and when infants were 4, 9, and 24 months postterm, including parent-report infant sleep logs, family sociodemographic assets and a 15 minute video-taped play session.
Within time points, infants who napped more had mothers who were rated as more positive and communicative or less negative during play interactions at 4, 9 and 24 months compared to infants who napped less. Time-lagged findings indicated that infants who took more naps experienced more optimal maternal interactive behaviors later in development than infants who took fewer naps. Additionally, mothers who expressed more negative affect at 4 months or 9 months predicted more infant daytime sleep later in development.
Previous studies document that nighttime parent-child interactions influence nighttime sleep. This study presents the natural extension that daytime sleep influences daytime interactions. The present study draws attention to the understudied area of daytime naps in young children and provides support for the longitudinal bi-directional processes between sleep and parenting interactions.
Preterm; Sleep; Parenting
This longitudinal, mixed method study focused on 57 families of children who participated in a mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents. Children ranged in age from 4 to 15 years. Monthly interviews were conducted with children, caregivers, and mentors during the first six months of program participation, and questionnaires were administered at intake and six months to assess caregiver–child and incarcerated parent–child relationships, contact with incarcerated parents, and children’s behavior problems. Although some children viewed their incarcerated parents as positive attachment figures, other children reported negative feelings toward or no relationship with incarcerated parents. In addition, our assessments of children nine years old and older revealed that having no contact with the incarcerated parent was associated with children reporting more feelings of alienation toward that parent compared to children who had contact. Children’s behavior problems were a primary concern, often occurring in a relational context or in reaction to social stigma associated with parental imprisonment.
attachment; behavior problems; parental incarceration; relationships; visitation
Objective We examined longitudinal associations among neonatal and socioeconomic risks, maternal scaffolding behaviors, and 24-month visual-spatial processing and working memory in a sample of 73 toddlers born preterm or low birthweight (PT LBW). Methods Risk data were collected at hospital discharge and dyadic play interactions were observed at 16-months postterm. Abbreviated IQ scores, verbal/nonverbal working memory, and verbal/nonverbal visual-spatial processing data were collected at 24-months postterm. Results Higher attention scaffolding and lower emotion scaffolding during 16-month play were associated with 24-month verbal working memory scores. A joint significance test revealed that maternal attention and emotion scaffolding during 16-month play mediated the relationship between socioeconomic risk and 24-month verbal working memory. Conclusions These findings suggest areas for future research and intervention with children born PT LBW who also experience high socioeconomic risk.
parenting; prematurity; risk
This prospective longitudinal study examined emerging effortful control skills at 24- and 36-months postterm in 172 children born preterm (<36 weeks gestation). Infant (neonatal health risks), family (sociodemographic risks) and maternal risk factors (depressive symptoms, anger expressions during play interactions) were assessed at six timepoints across 3 years. Additionally, children’s emerging effortful control skills, cognitive development, and mother-reported behavior and attention problems were assessed at 24- and 36-months. Analyses documented links between effortful control skills, cognitive skills, and concurrent attention problems in children born preterm. The study also found that preterm children’s effortful control skills improved over time. In addition, neonatal health risks, family sociodemographic risks, and angry parenting interactions were associated with less optimal effortful control skills.
ADHD; attention; effortful control; parenting; preterm; risk
Predictors of maternal depression trajectories were examined longitudinally in families with an infant born preterm or low birthweight. A total of 181 mother-infant dyads enrolled in the study prior to the infant’s NICU discharge. Maternal depressive symptoms were assessed at five timepoints, and contextual variables and infant risks were assessed at NICU discharge. Hierarchical linear models revealed that mothers who experienced more risk factors reported more depressive symptoms just prior to their infant’s NICU discharge and showed less decline in depressive symptoms in the months immediately following the child’s birth. Although cumulative risks predicted depression trajectories, this effect appeared driven by maternal and family sociodemographic risks rather than infant risks. Addition of family support as a covariate in the multilevel models with a subsample of families revealed that social support and depression covaried across time. However, most of the findings regarding the association between risk and depression remained consistent, whereas the effects of maternal race and multiple birth were slightly attenuated.
cumulative risks; family support; low birthweight; maternal depression; preterm
Objective To test a transactional model of sleep–wake development in infants born preterm or low birthweight (PT LBW), which may inform clinical practice, interventions, and future research in this at risk population. Methods One hundred and twenty-eight mother–infant dyads participated from hospital discharge to 4 months postterm. Assessments of prematurity, infant sleep–wake patterns, maternal interaction quality, depression, feeding route, and sociodemographic factors were conducted. Results Path analyses revealed that maternal interactions directly related to infant sleep patterns and family sociodemographic risks related to less optimal parenting. In addition, bottle fed infants experienced fewer night wakings and more nighttime sleep. Conclusions Two potential pathways to sleep patterns in PT LBW infants were identified. The findings suggest directions for clinical work, such as supporting healthy infant sleep through parenting interventions or supporting interpersonal relations between parents and their PT LBW infants by encouraging more daytime naps. Additionally, clinicians should assess parents’ nighttime sleep concerns within the larger sociodemographic and feeding context.
low birthweight; preterm; sleep; transactional development
We investigated children and families who were participating in a mentoring program targeting children with incarcerated parents. Using multiple methods and informants, we explored the development of the mentoring relationship, challenges and benefits of mentoring children with incarcerated parents, and match termination in 57 mentor-child dyads. More than one-third of matches terminated during the first 6 months of participation. For those matches that continued to meet, however, children who saw their mentors more frequently exhibited fewer internalizing and externalizing symptoms. In monthly interviews with participants, themes emerged about challenges associated with mentoring and reasons for match termination. Implications for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers are discussed.
high-risk children; incarceration; mentoring; termination; volunteer programs