Objectives: The principal aim was to investigate the feasibility of assessing mother-infant interactions at discharge and at 6 months infant corrected age in singletons born before 32 weeks of gestation. The secondary aims were to describe these interactions and their disorders, explore the association between maternal emotional state and the interactions, and assess the relationship between disordered interactions and infant social withdrawal behaviour.
Methods: OLIMPE is an ancillary study of the population-based study EPIPAGE 2, which recruited preterm neonates in France in 2011. 163 dyads participated at discharge and 148 at 6 months. Interactions were observed with the Attachment During Stress (ADS) scale, which includes two behavioural subscales, for the mother (m-ADS) and her infant (i-ADS). Two professionals independently completed the ADS scales for one third of the observations. Maternal emotional state was assessed using self-administered questionnaires of depression, anxiety, and stress. Infant's social withdrawal behaviour at 6 months was measured by the Alarm Distress Baby scale.
Results: At discharge, 15.3% of the m-ADS scales and 43.3% of the i-ADS scales had at least one unobserved component. At 6 months, all items on both scales were noticeable in >90% of the dyads. Reliability, estimated by the kappa coefficient, ranged between 0.39 and 0.76 at discharge, and between 0.21 and 0.69 at 6 months. Disordered interactions were indicated on 48.6% of the m-ADS scales and 36.5% of the i-ADS scales at discharge. At 6 months, these rates were 32.6% and 26.0%. Disordered interactions at 6 months were associated with identified disorder at discharge. Insecure infant attachment was not influenced by maternal mental health but was strongly associated with infant social withdrawal behaviour.
Conclusions: The ADS scale can be used to screen for early interaction disorders after premature birth and may help to target dyads that would most benefit from early intervention.