Parenting in Complex Conditions: Does Preterm Birth Provide a Context for the Development of Less Optimal Parental Behavior?

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Objective To examine the predictive value of parent, infant, and contextual factors related to preterm childbirth for later parenting behaviors. Methods Mothers (n = 217) and fathers (n = 204) of term, moderately preterm, and very preterm infants were interviewed 1 month postpartum using the Clinical Interview for Parents of high-risk infants (CLIP), to assess their experiences and perceptions related to the pregnancy, delivery, infant, hospitalization, support system, and their narratives. Their responses were factor analyzed and entered into prediction models of parental behaviors (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development observations) 6 months postpartum. Results Preterm birth was associated with negative experiences and concerns in parents. Regression analyses revealed, however, that irrespective of preterm birth, negative and unrealistic parental perceptions predicted less sensitive, more intrusive, and more withdrawn behavior. Conclusions Not prematurity per se, but particularly the presence of negative perceptions in parents, is predictive of difficulties in parent–infant interaction. The CLIP is a potentially useful instrument to identify families at risk.

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