Preterm infants who are prone to distress: differential effects of parenting on 36‐month behavioral and cognitive outcomes
Methods: Participants included 109 preterm infants (gestation <37 weeks) and their mothers. We assessed neonatal risk and basal vagal tone in the neonatal intensive care unit; infant temperament and parenting interactions at 9 months post‐term; and child behavior and cognitive skills at 36 months post‐term. Hierarchical regression analyses tested study hypotheses.
Results: Temperamentally prone‐to‐distress infants exhibited more externalizing problems if they experienced more critical parenting at 9 months (β = −.20, p < 0.05) but fewer externalizing problems with more positive parenting. Similarly, variations in maternal positive affect (β = .25, p < .01) and intrusive behaviors (β = .23, p < .05) at 9 months predicted 36‐month cognition at high but not at low levels of infant temperamental distress. Higher basal vagal tone predicted fewer externalizing problems (β = −.19, p < .05).
Conclusions: Early parenting behaviors relate to later behavior and development in preterm infants who are temperamentally prone to distress, and neonatal basal vagal tone predicts subsequent externalizing behaviors. These findings suggest that both biological reactivity and quality of caregiving are important predictors for later outcomes in preterm infants and may be considered as foci for developmental surveillance and interventions.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Human Development & Family Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 2: Division of Child Behavioral Health, Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Publication date: October 1, 2012