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Stressed-out moms think their children are more difficult

Mothers who experience stress from parenting are more likely to perceive their babies as temperamentally difficult, according to a new study by researchers at Bradley Hospital, Brown Medical School and Women & Infants' Hospital.

Researchers studied a group of mothers some of whom had used cocaine during pregnancy and measured their babies' behavior (using cry analysis, and reaction to stimuli) at birth. Subsequently, they asked mothers to rate their babies' temperaments when they were four months old.

They discovered that newborn babies who were more reactive to stimulation were rated as more difficult later in infancy. This finding was seen most strongly in infants whose mothers experienced a lot of stress related to being a parent.

Importantly, these ratings were not affected by whether or not mothers used drugs during pregnancy. Across the board, the mothers who felt the most parenting stress were the ones who rated their babies' behavior as more difficult.

"Whether or not a mother had used drugs, if she felt more stress in her role as a parent, she was more likely to view her baby as difficult and more likely to view her baby's behaviors just after birth as stressful," says lead author Stephen J. Sheinkopf, PhD, with Bradley Hospital, Brown Medical School and Women & Infants' Hospital. The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

These results suggest that, regardless of drug-exposure status, the manner in which parents react to and cope with challenging infant behaviors can be affected by their stress levels.

"Because we now know that the effect of parenting stress is true both for mothers with and without a history of drug use, these findings support our view that we can help mothers with drug use problems be happier and more effective parents," says Sheinkopf.

This study corroborates previous research showing that high levels of maternal stress are related to p
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Contact: Carol L. Vieira
cvieira1@lifespan.org
401-432-1328
Lifespan
5-Jan-2006


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