Objective: Previous studies have shown that premature birth and the immaturity of the child can affect the quality of the parent-child relationship. The present study examines the relationship between maternal and infant interactional behavior over time and infant perinatal risk factors as well as maternal perinatal recollected traumatic experience. Few studies have explored the relationship between maternal stress and the quality of parent-infant interaction.
Design: Mother-child interaction was recorded at 6 and 18 months of infant's age, in a population of 47 preterm infants (GA<34 weeks) and 25 full-term infants, born in 1998, during a play interaction. According to the Care Index, sensitivity, control and unresponsiveness have been used to code maternal interactional characteristics, and cooperation, compliance-compulsiveness, difficulty and passivity have been used to code the infant's interactional characteristics. The level of maternal stress was evaluated with the Perinatal Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Questionnaire (PPQ), and the infant's perinatal risk factors were assessed with the Perinatal Risk Inventory (PERI).
Results: Mothers of high-risk infants, as well as mothers that had experienced traumatic stress in the perinatal period, were less sensitive and more controlling at 6 months. The interactional behavior of the preterm infant was different from that of the full-term infant at 18 months of age, and was correlated with maternal traumatic stress but not with perinatal risk factors.
Conclusion: These results underline the importance of maternal traumatic experience related to premature birth and its potential long lasting influence on mother-child interactional behavior.