This prospective study examined how characteristics of infants (i.e., birth weight and perinatal illness severity), mothers (i.e., anxiety and level of education), and the social context (i.e., maternal received and perceived helpfulness of support) related to mother-very low birth weight (VLBW) infant interaction in 72 dyads. Infant, mother, and contextual factors were assessed at 3 and 9 months of age, and mothers and infants were observed in teaching interactions at 9 months. Dyads whose interaction was more sensitive and responsive included mothers who were better educated and less anxious at 3 months and reported higher perceived support at 3 months. The findings highlight the importance of maternal education and well-being in the parenting of VLBW infants.
To compare the psychosocial adjustment and the quality of interaction with their infant of mothers and fathers of very low-birthweight infants at two time points in the first year of the infant's life.
Quantitative, longitudinal design.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of two Canadian urban hospitals.
Sixty-one couples who had an infant born weighing less than 1,500 g.
State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Parenting Sense of Competence questionnaire, and the Support in Parenting Questionnaire were completed at 3 and 9 months of age. Parent-infant interaction was observed at 9 months and scored with the Nursing Child Assessment Teaching Scale.
Fathers' reported parenting self-efficacy was significantly lower than mothers' at both 3 and 9 months of age. Fathers reported more received support than mothers, and the amount of support that both mothers and fathers reported increased significantly from the 3-month to the 9-month assessment. Mothers and fathers reported similar levels of anxiety and perceived helpfulness of the support they received and were equally sensitive and responsive in interactions with their infants at 9 months of age.
Similarities and differences between mothers and fathers were observed. It is important for nurses to assess mothers and fathers, how any differences are perceived by the couple, and how any differences might be affecting them during the neonatal intensive care unit hospitalization and in early months after discharge.