Parenting very low birth weight children at school age: maternal stress and coping

J Pediatr. 2007 Nov;151(5):463-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.04.012. Epub 2007 Aug 23.


Objective: To compare severity and determinants of stress and coping in mothers of 8-year-old very low birth weight (VLBW) and term children varying in medical and developmental risk.

Study design: Three groups of mothers/infants were prospectively compared in a longitudinal study from birth to 8 years (110 high-risk VLBW, 80 low-risk VLBW, and 112 term). Maternal psychological distress, coping, parenting/marital stress, child health, and family impact were measured in the children at age 8 years.

Results: Mothers of VLBW children differed from term mothers, reporting less consensus with partners, more concern for their children's health, less parent-child conflict, and fewer years of education attained. Mothers of high-risk VLBW children experienced the greatest family and personal strains and used less denial and disengagement coping. The groups exhibited no differences in the sense of parenting competence, divorce rate, parenting/marital satisfaction, family cohesion, and psychological distress symptoms. Multiple birth, low socioeconomic status, and lower child IQ added to maternal stress.

Conclusions: VLBW birth has long-term negative and positive impacts on maternal/family outcomes related to the infant's medical risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Educational Status
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Intelligence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Relations
  • Midwestern United States
  • Object Attachment
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Class
  • Social Isolation
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires