To examine long-term outcomes in families of children with very low birth weights (<1500 g) in relation to the extent of low birth weight and neonatal medical risk.
Concurrent/cohort prospective study.
Regional follow-up program.
Families of 60 children of school age with birth weights less than 750 g, 55 with birth weights between 750 and 1499 g, and 49 normal birth weight full-term controls.
Main Outcome Measures
Parent ratings of psychological distress, family function, and child-related stress.
Families with children with birth weights less than 750 g experienced greater stress than did families of controls (born at full term), and families who were sociodemographically advantaged experienced greater stress than did those who were disadvantaged. Higher neonatal medical risk also predicted a more negative impact on the family, but only in advantaged families. Regression analyses suggested that adverse family outcomes were mediated by ongoing problems in child functioning.
Families of children with birth weights less than 750 g experience more long-term adversity than families of full-term children. Family sequelae are also present for children with very low birth weight at high neonatal medical risk. Ongoing child health and behavior problems may be the major source of these sequelae, and sociodemographic status is an important consideration in identifying family adversity. Although many families appear unaffected, results support the need to monitor family outcomes and develop interventions for both the child and family.