Parenting stress trajectories in mothers of very preterm infants to 2 years

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Abstract

Objective

To examine levels of parenting stress in mothers of preterm and term infants when the children were 2 years old; to determine the trajectory of stress over three time periods and to examine the association of maternal and neonatal factors and developmental outcomes with parenting stress.

Design

It is a prospective longitudinal study to determine parenting stress in mothers of preterm and term infants with outcomes having been previously obtained at 4 and 12 months. At 2 years, 79 preterm mothers (96 babies) and 64 term mothers (77 babies) participated. The mothers completed the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF), the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale (DASS) and the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL). The infants had a neurological examination and the Bayley-III scales were administered.

Results

The mean total PSI-SF at 2 years was significantly higher for the preterm group compared with the term group of mothers (p=0.007). There was a significant increase in the mean total PSI over time for the preterm mothers (p<0.001). For mothers at 2 years, there was an association with high levels of parenting stress and abnormal scores on the DASS (p<0.001) and high total T-scores on the CBCL (internalising p<0.001; externalising p=0.006). There was no association between parenting stress and maternal demographics, neonatal factors or Bayley-III results.

Conclusions

Parenting stress in mothers of preterm infants continues to be high at 2 years having increased over time. Maternal mental health problems and infant behavioural issues contribute to the stress.

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