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Parenting stress trajectories in mothers of very preterm infants to 2 years
  1. Peter H Gray1,2,
  2. Dawn M Edwards1,
  3. Kristen Gibbons2
  1. 1 Growth and Development Unit, Mater Mothers’ Hospital, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2 Mothers, Babies and Women’s Health Programme, Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Peter H Gray, Growth and Development Unit, Mater Mothers’ Hospital, South Brisbane, QLD 4101, Australia; Peter.Gray{at}


Objective To examine levels of parenting stress in mothers of preterm and term infants when the children were 2 years old; to determine the trajectory of stress over three time periods and to examine the association of maternal and neonatal factors and developmental outcomes with parenting stress.

Design It is a prospective longitudinal study to determine parenting stress in mothers of preterm and term infants with outcomes having been previously obtained at 4 and 12 months. At 2 years, 79 preterm mothers (96 babies) and 64 term mothers (77 babies) participated. The mothers completed the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF), the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale (DASS) and the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL). The infants had a neurological examination and the Bayley-III scales were administered.

Results The mean total PSI-SF at 2 years was significantly higher for the preterm group compared with the term group of mothers (p=0.007). There was a significant increase in the mean total PSI over time for the preterm mothers (p<0.001). For mothers at 2 years, there was an association with high levels of parenting stress and abnormal scores on the DASS (p<0.001) and high total T-scores on the CBCL (internalising p<0.001; externalising p=0.006). There was no association between parenting stress and maternal demographics, neonatal factors or Bayley-III results.

Conclusions Parenting stress in mothers of preterm infants continues to be high at 2 years having increased over time. Maternal mental health problems and infant behavioural issues contribute to the stress.

  • Preterm
  • trajectories
  • parenting stress

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  • Contributors PHG designed the study, performed preliminary data analysis and drafted the manuscript. DME designed the study, collected the data and drafted the manuscript. KG made a substantial contribution to the study design, performed detailed data analysis and drafted the manuscript. All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted.

  • Funding The study was funded by the Mater Mothers' Research Centre through a grant from theMater Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Detail has been removed from this case description/these case descriptions to ensure anonymity. The editors and reviewers have seen the detailed information available and are satisfied that the information backs up the case the authors are making.

  • Ethics approval Mater Health Services Human Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.