Principal Investigator: Julie Poehlmann, PhD
This study investigates early social and physiological processes involved in the development of self-regulation and its relation to infant-mother attachment and cognitive development in high-risk infants who vary in their level of neonatal medical risk. The research has a longitudinal design that follows infants from hospital discharge until they are 3 years (corrected for gestational age) and involves data collected from children and families using multiple methods in multiple contexts. The study has four specific aims: (1) to examine three preverbal predictors of high risk infants' self-regulation, including neurophysiological modulation (early cardiorespiratory processes), quality of mutual regulation (parent-infant interaction), and infant self-regulatory disposition (temperament); (2) to investigate parent-infant interaction quality over time as a mediator of the relation between infant/maternal characteristics and infants' cognitive and social outcomes; (3) to identify whether infants varying in risk levels and temperament are differentially susceptible to negative parenting associated with chronic maternal depression; and (4) to identify relations among attachment, cognitive abilities, and self-regulation in high-risk infants.
In the 6 year follow up study, research will be collected using a telephone interview, and forms completed by the child’s mother and teacher. This study has 3 specific aims. (1) To examine the implications of early self-regulatory capacities (e.g., effortful control, early temperament and behavior problems) for cognitive, social, and academic outcomes in children born preterm or low birthweight; (2) To examine whether early self-regulation is related to maternal depressive symptoms and parenting stress in children born preterm or low birthweight as they reach school age; and (3) to examine how early self-regulation and early sleep habits relate to later sleep habits in children born preterm or low birthweight.
The investigation examines longitudinal processes involved in the development of early self-regulation and extends our knowledge in three ways: (1) identification of how infants' perinatal medical risks and early heart rate variability directly and indirectly predict developmental outcomes; (2) testing a model that specifies parent-infant interaction quality as a mediator of the relation between infant neonatal risks, maternal depressive symptoms, and infant developmental outcomes, which has implications for preventive interventions with high risk infants; and (3) identification of relations among self-regulational capacities, attachment relationships and cognitive development in high-risk infants, which may provide suggestions for extending developmental follow-up evaluations of NICU graduates to include screening dyadic interactions.
Characteristics of Participants
- 181 participants recruited from three hospitals-Meriter Hospital in Madison Wisconsin, St.Mary’s Hospital Medical Center in Madison Wisconsin and St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Milwaukee Wisconsin
- All children were born preterm or low birth weight
- Time points– Hospital Discharge, 4 months, 9 months, 16 months, 24 months, 36 months of age, corrected for gestational age
- 53% of the infants in the study are boys and 47% are girls.
- 18% of the infants in the study are either twins or triplets.
- 55% of the infants in the study are first born.
- At the hospital discharge visit, siblings of the preterm infants ranged in age from 9 months to 22 years.
- 66% of the infants are Caucasian, 14% are African American, 2% are Latino, 1% are Asian, 1% are Middle Eastern, and 16% are multiracial.
- At the time of the infant’s birth, mothers’ ages ranged from 17 to 42 years and fathers’ ages ranged from 17 to 49 years. The average ages for mothers and fathers was between 30 and 31 years.