Parent-infant interaction quality is related to preterm status and sensory processing

A. Woolard, A. Coleman, T. Johnson, K. Wakely, L. E. Campbell, C. A. Mallise, O. M. Whalen, V. E. Murphy, F. Karayanidis, A. E. Lane

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Parent-infant interactions provide the foundation for the development of infant socioemotional wellbeing. Preterm birth can have a substantial, and often detrimental, impact on the quality of early parent-infant interactions. Sensory processing difficulties, common in preterm infants, are further associated with poorer interaction quality. There is a paucity of research, however, examining the links between the quality of parent-infant interaction, preterm birth, and sensory processing difficulties. This study aimed to characterise the quality of interactions of parent-infant dyads involving preterm infants who may display sensory processing differences and examine the associations between parent-infant interaction quality, preterm status and infant sensory processing. Method: 67 parent-infant dyads (12-months infant age, 22 preterm, 45 full-term) participated in a recorded, semi-structured 15-minute play interaction. Parents also filled out questionnaires on demographics, and infant sensory processing (Infant and Toddler Sensory Profile-2; ITSP-2). Interaction quality was rated using the Parenting Interactions with Children: Checklist of Observations Linked to Outcomes (PICCOLO). Results: Preterm and full-term infants differed in sensory processing and parent-infant interaction. Infant prematurity was associated with the sensory domains of; visual (r = − 0.37, p = .005), touch (r = − 0.39, p = .002), and movement (rs = − .32, p = .01), as well as the interaction domains of; responsivity (rs;= − .43, p = .001), teaching (rs = − .31, p = .02), and interaction total score (r = − 0.34, p = .01). Interaction quality was related to sensory registration (rs = − .38, p = .008), auditory (rs = − .34, p = .02), seeking (rs = .29, p = .05) and sensory behavioural scores (rs = − .52, p < .001). Overall, interaction quality was best predicted by infant prematurity and auditory scores, R2 = .15, F(1, 47) = 4.01, p = .02. Discussion: Preterm infants differed from their full-term peers in both their sensory processing and in their dyadic interactions with parents. Preterm status was associated with less responsivity and teaching and was found to predict overall interaction quality. Poorer infant sensory processing was associated with less parental teaching, affection and responsivity during interactions. Our results suggest that preterm birth is related to sensory processing difficulties, and that prematurity and sensory processing are differentially associated with aspects of interaction quality. These findings support the further examination of the interplay between preterm birth, sensory processing, and parent-infant interaction quality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101746
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


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