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Parents of Preemies Experience More Stress Years Later

Stressed mother
Parents of premature babies worry more about about their child's development, and this can translate into long-term stress.

According to new research, parents of preterm children (born at least seven weeks early) felt greater stress when their kids began misbehaving later in life than parents of full-term children.

Researchers measured (pre-term and full-term) children's behaviors and intelligence levels at 7-years-old, and used questionnaires to determine parents' stress levels. "After accounting for child behavior problems, IQ, gender, and the parents' coping styles, the study found that parents were more likely to be stressed if their child acted out," reports Reuters. The stress was especially evident when parents of preemies didn't discipline their kids, especially if they were girls.

A difference in coping methods was also found -- while preterm parents tended to use avoidance, parents of full-term children were more likely to use constructive-problem solving methods. Not surprisingly, the study pointed out that parents who were given support to deal with parenting challenges were less likely be overwhelmed.

The authors did note their uncertainty about whether a child behavior issues caused the stress, or if it was a result of bad behavior. Also according to Reuters, "mothers of children who act out already have higher stress levels and may play and interact with their children less than mothers whose kids behave...Having a preemie with medical complications may just make those interactions worse."

Mark Linden, the study's first author, suggests support groups, telephone help lines, or regular visits to the family general practitioner as resources to help parents find the best way to cope. Whatever the cause of parental stress may be, one thing's for certain: it will likely have a negative effect on children unless addressed right away.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

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