The role of sociodemographic factors in maternal psychological distress and mother‐preterm infant interactions

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Psychological distress and less positive mother‐infant interactions are common challenges for mothers of preterm infants. Mothers of preterm infants average higher depressive symptoms, post‐traumatic stress (PTS), anxiety, and worry about the child's health than mothers of full‐term infants (Brandon et al., 2011; Ghorbani, Dolatian, Shams, Alavi‐Majd, & Tavakolian, 2014; Kersting et al., 2004). In turn, maternal psychological distress has been associated with difficulty in establishing positive interactions between mothers and their infants (Holditch‐Davis, Schwartz, Black, & Scher, 2007; Korja, Latva, & Lehtonen, 2012). Less positive mother‐infant interactions are more common among mothers and their preterm infants than mothers and their full‐term infants (Korja et al., 2012). The home environment also has been shown to positively influence mother‐infant interactions and infant development (Holditch‐Davis, Tesh, Goldman, Miles, & D'Auria, 2000). Thus, maternal psychological distress, the home environment, and mother‐infant interactions are interrelated. Maternal and infant sociodemographic characteristics might also explain variations in maternal psychological distress, the home environment, and mother‐infant interactions.
To date, research on effects of sociodemographic variables has primarily focused on relationships at single time points, yet variables are likely to have different effects over time. Characteristics that exert an influence over a period of time would be the best targets for designing interventions. Understanding the stability of the impact of maternal and infant sociodemographic factors over time, therefore, is essential to design interventions to promote positive maternal and preterm infants’ outcomes in mothers and infants at greatest risk.
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