• childhood behavior problems;
  • longitudinal research;
  • marital quality;
  • parenting stress;
  • preterm;
  • school-age child;
  • socioeconomic status

Abstract  The study examined the relationship of early family environment and infant characteristics with childhood behavior problems at age 7 years. Sixty-two mothers and 56 fathers of preterm (30–36 weeks gestation and greater than 1500 g) and full-term boys and girls completed the Parenting Stress Index, Dyadic Adjustment Scale, and a measure of socioeconomic status during the child's first year. When their child was age 7 years, parents completed the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory Intensity (frequency of behavior) and Problem (impact of behavior) scales. Hierarchical regression analyses showed that parenting stress because of their child's distractibility during infancy predicted the frequency of childhood behavior problems at age 7 years for mothers and of the impact of behaviors on the mother and the father. The quality of the marital relationship during infancy predicted the frequency of behavior problems reported by fathers. Public health nurses are well positioned to assess parenting stress and marital quality and to provide support to families during the early stages of parenthood.