The present longitudinal study of African-American mothers of preterm infants tested the hypothesis that the quality of maternal adaptation to parenthood before infant discharge from the hospital is predictive of maternal perceptions of infant vulnerability later in the infant's first year. As hypothesized, perceptions of infant vulnerability at 3 to 4 months of infant corrected age were predicted by two theoretically relevant measures of maternal adaptation in the neonatal period: mothers' perceptions of their neonates as lethargic and unresponsive to mothers' bids and by low maternal self-efficacy beliefs about feeding the infant. Neonatally obtained maternal self-inefficacy beliefs about their ability to feed the infant in particular proved to be quite robust in predicting mothers' later perceptions of infant vulnerability. Findings collectively suggest that careful attention to the manner in which mothers of preterm infants adapt to parenthood, even before infant hospital discharge, can help clinicians identify mothers at particularly high risk of developing perceptions of infant vulnerability later in the infant's first year. Implications for intervention are discussed.
1Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
2Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland
Received October 2004; accepted April 2005.
Address for reprints: Douglas M. Teti, Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies, S-110 Henderson Bldg., The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.