Objectives: This study was designed to evaluate relationships between infant crying behavior and fussing behavior and the mother's causal attributions of the crying, her emotional responses to the crying, as well as her later perception of infant temperament.
Methods: Twenty mothers who presented their 3-9-week-old infants in pediatric practices because of excessive crying ("colic complaint group") and 20 mothers who visited for public preventive screening ("control group") were compared. Mothers kept a "baby diary." A highly structured interview with the mothers was conducted. When the babies were 4 months old, mothers completed a temperament questionnaire. The colic complaint group was subdivided using the Wessel criteria.
Results: Infants from the colic complaint group who did not meet these criteria did not differ from control subjects in any of the parameters derived from the diaries. However, the mothers of this group described significantly heightened negative affect and cognitions of being rejected in response to the crying. In contrast, mothers of infants who conformed to Wessel's definition, and thereby far exceeded the other subjects in crying duration, did not differ from control mothers in respect of the aforementioned feelings and cognitions. Mothers' "negative affect and feelings of being rejected" were associated with the perception of high negative emotionality 4 months later.
Conclusion: In regard to the colic problem, attention must be paid not only to the characteristics of the child, but also to aspects of maternal perception and processing of the crying problem.