Aim: Traditionally, the child health services have laid emphasis on first-time mothers. Some researchers have argued that the needs of multiparous mothers must be considered equally important. The aim of this paper was to analyse parity-related characteristics in pairs of mothers and 18-month-old children.
Methods: The study was population-based and cross-sectional. 586 primiparous mothers and 821 mothers with at least one previous child completed a questionnaire. Additional information was extracted from the child health records by the nurses. Data were collected in 2002-2003 and 2004-2005.
Results: Compared to multiparous mothers, primiparous mothers had a higher utilization of child health services. Multiparous mothers scored higher on parental incompetence stress and felt that their work load was more demanding. Multiparous mothers reported less social support, particularly in practical respects such as baby-sitting. They considered their interaction with the child as less satisfactory than did primiparous mothers; their children participated less in shared reading and had a more restricted vocabulary. Fewer multiparous mothers assessed their own and their child's total situation as very good.
Conclusions: The child health services should develop competence and methods to support multiparous mothers and alleviate their workload when caring for several children.
Keywords: Child behaviour; child health services; child language; parenthood stress; parity; postpartum depression; social support; work load.