Exposure to caring parenting and adult mental health in extremely low birthweight survivors
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AIM: Individuals born at extremely low birthweight (ELBW; <1000 g) are exposed to early adversities that increase the risk of mental health problems in later life. Caring parenting has been shown to offset the negative effects of early adversity in general population samples. However, the long-term impact of caring parenting on the mental health of preterm survivors in adulthood is not known. METHODS: Using data from the world's oldest longitudinally followed cohort of ELBW survivors (n = 179) and matched normal birthweight (NBW) control participants (n = 145), we examined if caring parenting moderated the link between preterm birth and mental health at 30-35 years of age. Participants reported on the parenting they received from their mothers using the parental bonding instrument. Self-esteem and internalising problems (i.e. depression, anxiety) were self-reported at 30-35 years of age using the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory and Young Adult Self-Report questionnaire, respectively. RESULTS: A statistically significant interaction was found between birthweight status and caring maternal parenting on self-esteem and internalising psychopathology in adulthood. Stratified analyses demonstrated that caring parenting was associated with better self-esteem (P < 0.001) and lower levels of internalising symptoms (P = 0.001), but in NBW participants only. CONCLUSIONS: While the receipt of caring maternal parenting promoted mental health in adults born at NBW, it did not have the same protective effect on ELBW survivors. More research is needed to elucidate the aspects of parenting and the family environment that promote the long-term mental health of preterm survivors.
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