Declining cognitive development from 8 to 18 months in preterm children predicts persisting higher parenting stress

Early Hum Dev. 2011 Apr;87(4):273-80. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2011.01.030. Epub 2011 Feb 18.


Background: Higher parenting stress in mothers of children born very preterm may be in part a response to poorer neurobehavioral development, reflecting realistic concerns in addition to adaptation to the trauma of preterm delivery. To our knowledge, there are few longitudinal studies of parenting stress that have addressed child cognitive competence.

Aims: To examine parenting stress in preterm and full-term children at 8 and 18 months corrected chronological age (CCA), in relation to child cognitive development and behavior.

Subjects: Participants were N=152 children (98 preterm born ≤32 weeks gestation, and 54 full-term) seen at 8 and 18 months CCA, and the primary caregiver parent. STUDY DESIGN/OUTCOME MEASURES: The Parenting Stress Index questionnaire was completed by a parent, child interactive behavior was videotaped, and the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID II, Mental Development Index; MDI) were administered at both ages.

Results: Total Parenting Stress was higher in preterm than full-term children at 8 and 18 months CCA (p<.02), accounted for primarily by the Child domain. Hierarchical regression showed (after controlling for neonatal risk, number of children in the home, child interactive behavior and maternal education) that decreasing Bayley MDI scores from 8 to 18 months CCA predicted higher parenting stress for preterm children. For full-term children, number of children in the home and child interactive behavior predicted parental stress at 18 months.

Conclusion: Higher parenting stress persisting to 18 months CCA in preterm children may partly reflect realistic parental concerns with their child's development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Development*
  • Cognition*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mothers / education
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Premature Birth / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*