Aim: To assess the associations between cognitive development of very low birth weight (VLBW) infants and measures of parental psychological well-being.
Methods: In this prospective cohort study, 182 VLBW infants born 1/2001–12/2006 at the Turku University Hospital, Finland, were followed up. At 2 years corrected age, cognitive development of the child was assessed using the Mental Development Index of Bayley Scales, and both parents filled in validated questionnaires defining parental psychological well-being (Beck Depression Inventory, Parenting Stress Index and Sense of Coherence Scale).
Results: The cognitive delay of the infant was associated with paternal symptoms of depression (p = 0.007) and parenting stress (p = 0.03). Mothers of the infants with cognitive delay reported increased parenting stress related to the difficulty to accept the child (p = 0.001). Weak sense of coherence predicted depressive symptoms in both parents (p < 0.0001).
Conclusion: Even if the fathers of VLBW infants experienced depressive symptoms less often than the mothers, the ability of the fathers to cope was significantly associated with the cognitive development of the infant. In addition, the fathers reported more parenting stress if the infant had a cognitive delay. The mothers reported more parenting stress related to accepting the VLBW infant with cognitive delay.