To provide a prospective developmental model for behavioral outcomes in preterm infants in relation to developmental care (DC) practices and postnatal maternal depression.
A longitudinal, multicenter, follow-up study conducted in 25 Italian tertiary neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). Participants were 162 healthy very preterm infants and their mothers. The level of quality of DC was assessed for each hospital. Infant's neurobehavioral profile was evaluated twice: at discharge (T1) and at 18 months for behavioral problems (T3). Maternal depressive symptomatology was measured at T1 and at 6 months (T2).
Low-quality DC in NICUs was associated with lower levels of infant neurobehavioral adaptability and higher levels of maternal depressive symptoms. Maternal depressive symptomatology in conjunction with higher infant dysregulation predicted more internalizing problems at 18 months of age.
DC interventions and postnatal maternal depression, as well as infant behavior have an impact on short- and long-term infant outcomes.