Minimizing Adverse Effects of Low Birthweight: Four-Year Results of an Early Intervention Program

Child Dev. 1988 Jun;59(3):544-53.

Abstract

The outcome of an early intervention program for low-birthweight (LBW) infants was examined in this study. The intervention consisted of 11 sessions, beginning during the final week of hospitalization and extending into the home over a 3-month period. The program aimed to facilitate maternal adjustment to the care of a LBW infant, and, indirectly, to enhance the child's development. Neonates weighing less than 2,200 grams and under 37 weeks gestational age were randomly assigned to experimental or control conditions. A full-term, normal birthweight (NBW) group served as a second control. 6-month analyses of dyads who completed all assessments over a 4-year period (N's = 25 LBW experimental, 29 LBW control, and 28 NBW infant-mother dyads) showed that the experimental group mothers reported significantly greater self-confidence and satisfaction with mothering, as well as more favorable perception of infant temperament than LBW control group mothers. A progressive divergence between the LBW experimental and LBW control children on cognitive scores culminated in significant group differences on the McCarthy GCI at ages 36 and 48 months, when the LBW experimental group caught up to the NBW group. Possible explanations for the observed delay in the emergence of intervention effects on cognitive development and the mediating role of favorable mother-infant transactional patterns are discussed in light of recent evidence from the literature.

PIP: The outcome of an early intervention program for low-birthweight (LBW) infants was examined in this study. The intervention consisted of 11 sessions, beginning during the final week of hospitalization and extending into the home over a 3-month period. The program aimed to facilitate maternal adjustment to the care of a LBW infant, and indirectly, to enhance the child's development. Neonates weighing less than 2,200 grams and under 37 weeks gestational age were randomly assigned to experimental or control analysis of dyads who completed all assessments over a 4-year period (N's = 25 LBW experimental, 29 LBW control, and 28 NBW infant-mother dyads) showed that the experimental group mothers reported significantly greater self-confidence and satisfaction with mothering, as well as more favorable perception of infant temperament than LBW control group mothers. A progressive divergence between the LBW experimental and LBW control children on cognitive scores culminated in significant group differences on the McCarthy GCI at ages 36 and 48 months, when the LBW experimental group caught up to the NBW group. Possible explanations for the observed delay in the emergence of intervention effects on cognitive development and the mediating role of favorable mother-infant transactional patterns are discussed in light of recent evidence from the literature. These findings support a transactional model for facilitating mother-infant interactions. A logical next step would be to replicate the intervention program on a different sample of infants considered to be at biological risk. The studies were conducted at Medical Center Hospital in Vermont.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition
  • Developmental Disabilities / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight / psychology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology