Objective Pregnancy, birth and health complications, maternal mental health problems following preterm birth and their possible impact on early mother–infant interaction at 6 and 18 months corrected age (CA) were explored. Predictors of mother–infant interaction at 18 months CA were identified.
Design and methods This prospective longitudinal and observational study included 33 preterm mother–infant (<33 gestational age (GA)) interactions at 6 and 18 months CA from a socioeconomic low-risk, middle-class sample. The Parent–Child Early Relational Assessment (PCERA) scale was used to assess the mother–infant interaction.
Results ‘Bleeding in pregnancy’ predicted lower quality in preterm mother–infant interaction in 6 PCERA scales, while high ‘maternal trait anxiety’ predicted higher interactional quality in 2 PCERA scales and ‘family size’ predicted lower interactional quality in 1 PCERA scale at 18 months CA. Mothers with symptoms of post-traumatic stress reactions, general psychological distress and anxiety at 2 weeks postpartum (PP) showed significantly better outcome than mothers without symptoms in 6 PCERA subscales at 6 months CA and 2 PCERA subscales at 18 months CA.
Conclusions Our study detected a correspondence between early pregnancy complications and lower quality of preterm mother–infant interaction, and an association between high levels of maternal mental health problems and better quality in preterm mother–infant interaction.
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