ARE PRETERM INFANTS MORE SUSCEPTABLE TO MATERNAL STRESS? A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF MATERNAL STRESS AND COGNITIVE SKILLS
האם תינוקות אשר נולדו פגים רגישים יותר ללחץ הורי? מחקר אורך בנושא לחץ הורי ויכולות קוגניטיביות
Noa Gueron-Sela, Naama Atzaba-Poria, Gal Meiri & Kyla Marks
נועה גירון-סלע, נעמה עצבה-פוריה, גל מאירי וקיילה מרקס
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev & Soroka University Medical Center
Introduction: The Differential Susceptibility Model proposes that children vary in their vulnerability to environmental factors, and that some children may be more affected by parental behavior than others (Belsky, 1997). The current study investigated susceptibility to maternal stress by examining longitudinal links between maternal parenting stress and infant cognitive competence among a risk group for cognitive delay - infants born preterm.
Materials & Methods: Participants were 129 healthy infants: 69 born preterm (gestational age 28-34 weeks) and 60 born at full-term (>37 weeks). Data was collected during 2 time points. When children were 6 months old (corrected age), mothers reported about their parenting stress. When children were12 months old (corrected age), children's cognitive level was evaluated using the Bayley 3 cognitive scale.
Results: No differences in parenting stress levels were found between mothers from both groups. However, infants born preterm scored significantly lower on the cognitive scale compared to full-term infants. Finally, a moderation model was revealed in which the group variable (preterm vs. comparison group) moderated the link between maternal stress and cognitive competence (controlling for maternal education and infant medical risk level). Specifically, while high parenting stress put preterm infants at risk for low cognitive competence, low parenting stress buffered the negative effect of prematurity on cognitive competence (see Figure 1). No such links were found among the full-term group.
Conclusions: Results highlight the significant role of maternal emotional distress on the course of preterm infants’ early cognitive development.
Figure 1. Cognitive competence among preterm and full-term infants for high and low maternal stress.