Objective: To examine parent protection and its correlates among 8-year-old ELBW children compared with normal birth weight (NBW) controls.
Methods: The population included 217 eight-year-old ELBW children born 1992–1995 (92% of the surviving birth cohort; mean birth weight, 811 g; mean gestational age, 26.4 weeks) and 176 NBW controls. The primary outcome measure, the Parent Protection Scale (PPS), included a total score and four domains including Supervision, Separation, Dependence, and Control. Multivariate analyses were performed to examine the predictors of parental protection and overprotection.
Results: After adjusting for socioeconomic status (SES), race, sex, and age of the child, parents of ELBW children reported significantly higher mean total Parent Protection Scale scores (31.1 vs 29.7, p = .03) than parents of NBW children and higher scores on the subscale of Parent Control (8.0 vs 7.5, p = .04). These differences were not significant when the 36 children with neurosensory impairments were excluded. Parents of ELBW children also reported higher rates of overprotection than controls (10% vs 2%, p = .001), findings that remained significant even after excluding children with neurosensory impairments (8% vs 2%, p = .011). Multivariate analyses revealed lower SES to be associated with higher total Parent Protection Scale scores in both the ELBW (p < .001) and NBW (p < .05) groups. Additional correlates included neurosensory impairment (p < .05) and functional limitations (p < .001) in the ELBW group and black race (p < .05) and maternal depression (p < .01) in the NBW group. Lower child IQ was significantly associated with higher PPS scores only in the neurosensory impaired subgroup of ELBW children.
Conclusions: Longer term follow-up will be necessary to examine the effects of the increased parent protection on the development of autonomy and interpersonal relationships as the children enter adolescence.