Perceived Developmental Delays in Children Born Preterm And Parental Stress



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Background: Parents of children born preterm experience more parental stress than parents of typically developing children due to the increased likelihood of developmental delays occurring with prematurity. Parents’ perceptions of their child’s developmental performance are important because perceptions can increase parental stress which can impact parental actions concerning the child. Purpose: This studyexamined whether the perception of child developmental performance increased parental stress above actual developmental performance in children born preterm. Moreover, it explored whether actual and perceived developmental performance predicted the change in parental stress over time. Child birth weight and use of mechanical ventilation were also examined to determine which contributed to the prediction of parenting stress. Methods: Archival data from 22 parent-child dyads were extracted from a larger study in a high-risk infant clinic. Data included reports of parental stress, standard scores of child developmental performance, and reports of parent perceived child delay. Data regarding medical complications at birth were also included. Results: Bivariate analysis revealed a nonsignificant correlation between child birthweight and parental stress when children were 18-29 and 36-65 months. Use of mechanical ventilation at birth accounted for decreased amounts of the variance in parental stress as children aged. Multivariate analysis indicated that parental perception of child developmental delays significantly predicted more of the variance in parental stress when children were 36-65 months than actual child developmental performance. This prediction was not significant when children were 18-29 months. Actual and parent perceived developmental delay did not significantly predict the change in parental stress over time. Conclusion: Pediatric practitioners should examine child and family functioning during pediatric medical visits, particularly during early childhood. It is valuable to consider a parent’s perception of their child’s disability, beyond an actual disability. Data regarding parent and family functioning will inform the provisions of interventions that target parental stress.



Developmental delays, Children Born Preterm, Parental stress