Infants born with medical problems are at risk for less optimal developmental outcomes. This may be, in part, because neonatal medical problems are associated with maternal distress, which may adversely impact infants. However, the reserve capacity model suggests that an individual's bank of psychosocial resources buffers the adverse effects of later-encountered stressors. This prospective longitudinal study examined whether preexisting maternal psychosocial resources, conceptualized as felt security in close relationships, moderate the association between neonatal medical problems and infant fussing and crying 12 months postpartum. Maternal felt security was measured by assessing its indicators in 5,092 pregnant women. At birth, infants were classified as healthy or having a medical problem. At 12 months, experience sampling was used to assess daily maternal reports of fussing and crying in 135 mothers of infants who were healthy or had medical problems at birth. Confirmatory factor analyses revealed that attachment, relationship quality, self-esteem, and social support can be conceptualized as indicators of a single felt security factor. Multiple regression analyses revealed that prenatal maternal felt security interacts with infant health at birth to predict fussing and crying at 12 months. Among infants born with medical problems, higher felt security predicted decreased fussing and crying. Maternal felt security assessed before birth dampens the association between neonatal medical problems and subsequent infant behavior. This supports the hypothesis that psychosocial resources in reserve can be called upon in the face of a stressor to reduce its adverse effects on the self or others.
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