Early maternal anxiety predicts cognitive and behavioural outcomes of VLBW children at 24 months corrected age

Acta Paediatr. 2011 May;100(5):700-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2010.02128.x. Epub 2011 Jan 11.


Aim: The present study examined the effects of maternal anxiety during infant hospitalization in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on the child's cognitive and behavioural development at 24 months corrected age. Parental anxiety following the birth of a very low birthweight (VLBW, <1500 g) infant may impede their capacity to be sensitive to the infant's cues and adversely affect infant developmental outcomes.

Methods: A sample of 88 mothers and their VLBW infants were recruited in the NICU; 57 were followed at 24 months corrected age. During the infant's hospitalization, mothers completed a self-report measure of trait anxiety. When the infants were 24 months corrected age, mother-child interaction was videotaped during free play at home. These videotaped observations were coded using Emotional Availability Scales. Child cognitive and behavioural outcomes were evaluated using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (II) and the Child Behavior Checklist for Ages 1.5-5.

Results: Maternal anxiety in the NICU was found to be a significant and independent predictor of child cognitive development and internalizing behaviour problems, controlling for maternal education and neonatal morbidity.

Conclusion: These results suggest that early intervention programmes targeting anxious mothers of VLBW infants are indicated, to promote optimal developmental outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Lost to Follow-Up
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors