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Mental health in low-to-moderate risk preterm, low birth weight, and small for gestational age children at 4 to 5 years: the role of early maternal parenting

journal contribution
posted on 01.03.2012, 00:00 authored by Elizabeth WestruppElizabeth Westrupp, Fiona K Mensah, Rebecca Giallo, Amanda Cooklin, Jan M Nicholson
OBJECTIVES: The majority of children born preterm, with low birth weight, or small for gestational age are born with low-to-moderate risk (LTM), yet most research focuses on the high-risk group. Little is known about whether children with LTM perinatal risk are at greater risk for mental health problems, or what the role of early maternal parenting is in determining these outcomes. METHOD: Longitudinal data were from a large nationally representative Australian cohort of 5,000 children, aged 0 to 1, 2 to 3, and 4 to 5 years of age. Participants were 354 children with LTM perinatal risk born at 33 to 36 weeks, with birth weight 1,501 to 2,499 grams, or born between the first and 10th percentiles for gestational age; and 2,461 children in the normal birth weight, term comparison group. Child mental health was measured by mother-report on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Parenting irritability, warmth, self-efficacy, maternal separation anxiety, and overprotective parenting were measured when children were 0 to 1 and 2 to 3 years of age. RESULTS: Parents in the LTM perinatal risk group were more likely to experience parenting difficulties on one of eight parenting measures (irritable parenting at age 0-1 year) when adjusting for socio-demographic differences (odds ratio = 1.43; 95% confidence interval = 1.05, 1.95, p < .02). This group difference was no longer apparent by age 2 to 3 years. Compared with healthy-term peers, there were small increases in Emotional Symptoms and Total Difficulties on the SDQ for the LTM perinatal risk group at age 4 to 5 years. When accounting for maternal-specific and socio-demographic factors, LTM perinatal risk group continued to predict Emotional Symptoms but not Total Difficulties at age 4 to 5 years. CONCLUSIONS: Children with LTM perinatal risk were at a small increased risk for emotional difficulties but did not differ significantly from other children of similar social backgrounds in their risk for generalized mental health problems. These findings support a biological and socio-economic, rather than parenting, pathway to psychological risk in children born with LTM perinatal risk.



Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry






313 - 323




Amsterdam, The Netherlands







Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2018, Elsevier Inc.