Objectives: To develop and provide initial data to validate a contemporary measure of maternal perceptions of infant vulnerability.
Methods: Questions that address current concerns of mothers regarding their young children (such as the risk of sudden infant death syndrome) were added to an existing Vulnerable Child Questionnaire. Questions not relevant to either current concerns or to young infants were removed. The modified questionnaire, along with standard measures of maternal anxiety and depressive symptoms, were administered to mothers of 39 healthy full-term babies, 17 mothers of 'medically fragile' babies and 19 mothers of jaundiced babies. Babies were approximately 12 weeks of age at the time of completion of the questionnaire.
Results: Three questions were removed from the questionnaire on the basis of poor item-total correlations, leaving the final version with 10 questions, scored on 1-5 rating scales. Cronbach alpha for the revised scale was 0.7. There was a significant difference (P = 0.002) in mean vulnerable baby scores between the control group and the 'medically fragile' group. There was a moderately strong correlation between vulnerable baby score and maternal state anxiety (r = 0.6) and a weaker correlation with maternal depressive symptoms (r = 0.3).
Conclusions: The modified questionnaire has good internal consistency. The difference in mean scores between the three groups, and correlations with maternal anxiety and depressive symptoms, lend construct validity to the scale. The Vulnerable Baby Scale appears to be suitable for assessing maternal perceptions of the vulnerability of their young babies in clinical and research settings although further research, with larger samples, may be necessary to fully establish the scale's psychometric properties.