(HealthDay News) – For very low birth weight (VLBW) infants, poor parental psychological well-being is associated with behavioral problems at age 3.

Mira Huhtala, MD, from Turku University in Finland, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study of 189 VLBW preterm infants born between January 2001–December 2006 to investigate the association between parental psychological well-being and behavioral problems at age 3. When the children were 2 years corrected age, validated questionnaires (Beck Depression Inventory, Parenting Stress Index, and Sense of Coherence Scale) were sent to parents. Behavior of the child at age 3 was assessed by 140 parents who completed the Child Behavior Checklist.

The researchers found that most measures of parental symptoms of depression, parenting stress, and sense of coherence were significantly associated with behavioral outcome of the VLBW infants. The presence of symptoms in both parents concomitantly correlated with more problematic child behavior.

“Parents report more behavior and emotional problems in VLBW children at age 3 if they themselves have had symptoms of depression, parenting stress, or weak sense of coherence one year earlier,” the authors write. “This study shows that not only maternal but also paternal psychological well-being is a significant contributor of the behavioral development of preterm children.”

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