Preterm behavior, maternal adjustment, and competencies in the newborn period: What influence do they have at 12 months postnatal age?



This article examines whether preterm newborns' behavior and their mother's adjustment to the premature birth and infant hospitalization have an influence on subsequent infant development and behavior, maternal adjustment, and mother–infant relationship. The behavioral competencies of 42 well, singleton preterm infants (mean gestational age=31 weeks) were assessed, as were their mothers' adjustment (depression and coping) and competencies (knowledge of child development). At 12 months of postnatal age, child competencies (development and behavior) were assessed, together with maternal adjustment (parenting stress and depression). Mother–infant interaction also was observed. Regression analyses indicated that in the newborn period, maternal positive reappraisal and a planful coping style, more knowledge of child development, and previous experience with baby-sitting were associated with better infant development (p=.002), maternal adjustment (p=.012), and mother–child relationship (p=.002) at 12 months. Newborn infant muscle-tone maturity was predictive of better motor quality at 12 months (p=.011), and being a firstborn infant who was more sleepy and drowsy was associated with subsequent higher maternal parenting stress (p=.007). Social and educational support groups combined with an approach that assists mothers to develop problem-solving coping styles may have a beneficial influence on infant development.