Early parenting behaviour is associated with complex attention outcomes in middle to late childhood in children born very preterm

Rebecca N. Brown, Leona Pascoe, Karli Treyvaud, Grace McMahon, Thi-Nhu-Ngoc Nguyen, Rachel Ellis, Paulina Stedall, Kristina Haebich, Simonne E. Collins, Jeanie Cheong, Lex W. Doyle, Deanne K. Thompson, Alice Burnett, Peter J. Anderson

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Attention deficits are common in children born very preterm (VP), especially for children with higher social risk. The aim of this study was to examine the association between parenting behavior and attention in children born VP, and whether this association is influenced by familial social risk. Two hundred and twenty-four children born <30 weeks’ gestation and/or with a birth weight <1250 g were recruited at birth. At 2 years, social risk was calculated and parenting behaviors were observed during a parent-child interaction task, with children’s attention skills assessed at 7 and 13 years using standardized assessments. Higher levels of sensitive parenting at 2 years were positively associated with divided attention at age 7 years, and higher levels of intrusive parenting were negatively associated with divided attention at 13 years. Children born VP with higher social risk were more positively influenced by sensitive parenting behavior for sustained attention at 7 years, selective attention at 13 years, and divided attention at 7 and 13 years than children born VP with lower social risk. Additionally, children born VP with higher social risk were more negatively influenced by intrusive parenting for sustained attention outcomes at 7 years than those with lower social risk. In summary, the evidence for a contribution of early parenting to attention outcomes in children born VP was stronger for more complex attention (divided attention) compared with basic attention domains. Our findings also suggest that early parenting behavior has a particular influence on children born VP from socially disadvantaged environments for attention outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalChild Neuropsychology
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • attention
  • parent-child interaction
  • Preterm birth
  • social risk

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