Exploring predictors of change in behavioral problems over a 1-year period in preterm born preschoolers

Renske Schappin*, Lex Wijnroks, Monica Uniken Venema, Marian Jongmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objective Although predictors of the prevalence of behavioral problems in preterm-born children have been frequently studied, predictors of behavioral change in these children remain unknown. Therefore, in this study we explore predictors of short-term changes in problem behavior in preterm-born preschoolers, an age period characterized by rapid behavioral change. Method Two- to 5-year-old children born with a gestational age <32 weeks and/or birth weight <1500 g were eligible, because of their high risk for behavioral problems. Following screening, 59 children with a t-score ≥60 on either the internal, external or total problem scale of the Child Behavior Checklist were included in the study. Linear mixed modeling was used to investigate predictors of change in behavior over a 1-year period. Results Higher levels of parenting stress, parent perceived child vulnerability, and parental hostility towards the child and lower educational levels of the mother significantly predicted increases in externalizing behavior. The higher the age of the child, the more internalizing problems decreased. Conclusions Parenting stress, parent perceived child vulnerability and parental hostility towards the child were the only modifiable predictors of increases in externalizing behavior, whilst no modifiable predictors of internalizing behavior were found. There may be a reciprocal interaction between stress in parents and child externalizing problems. Furthermore, stress and worries may directly influence parents’ reports on behavioral measures, because it could cause them to be concerned by behavior otherwise perceived as normal. Therefore, future interventions for parents of preterm-born children should primarily address parental stress and concerns regarding their child.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-106
Number of pages9
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Volume50
Early online date16 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

Keywords

  • Behavioral change
  • Behavioral problems
  • Parenting stress
  • Preschool age
  • Preterm children

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