Factors Affecting Parent-Child Relationships One Year After Positive Newborn Screening for Cystic Fibrosis or Congenital Hypothyroidism

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Examine factors that mediate parent-infant relationships 12 months after positive newborn screening (NBS).


We examined effects of infant diagnosis, parents' perceptions of child vulnerability and child attachment, parental depression and anxiety on parent-infant feeding interactions for 131 mothers and 118 fathers of 131 infants whose NBS and diagnostics confirmed cystic fibrosis (CF, n = 23), congenital hypothyroidism (CH, n = 35), CF carrier status (CF-C, n = 38), or healthy normal NBS (H, n = 35).


Separate composite indicator structural equation models for mothers and fathers showed that neonatal diagnosis was not associated with increased anxiety or depression. In comparison with the healthy group, CF group parents reported higher perceptions of child vulnerability (p < .001, p = .002), and CF-C group fathers viewed their children as more attached (p = .021). High maternal perception of child vulnerability was associated with low perceptions of child attachment (p = .001), which was associated with task-oriented feeding behavior (p = .016, p = .029). Parental task-oriented feeding behavior was associated with less positive (p < .001, p < .001) and more negative interactions (p < .001, p = .001) with their infants. High paternal perception of child vulnerability was associated with negative parent interactions (p < .001). High parental affective involvement and verbalization was associated with high infant affective expressiveness, communicative skills, and social responsiveness (mothers' p < .001, fathers' p < .001). High parental negative effect and/or inconsistent and intrusive behavior were associated with infant dysregulation and irritability (mothers, p < .001, fathers, p < .001).


The severity of conditions identified through NBS can affect parents' perceptions of their child's vulnerability and attachment. Infant feeding problems in the context of chronic health conditions, like CF, could represent signs of more deeply rooted concerns regarding the parent-child relationship that merit additional clinical evaluation.

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