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Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2012 Feb;91(2):164-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0412.2011.01304.x.

The effects of preterm birth on mother-infant interaction and attachment during the infant's first two years.

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Department of Child Psychiatry, University of Turku, Finland.



Early mother-infant relationships in preterm populations were evaluated in the context of a systematic review of the literature.


A systematic search of three electronic databases (PsychINFO, PubMed and Cochrane Library) was undertaken. Three studies of maternal attachment, 18 studies of mother-preterm infant interaction and eight studies of infant attachment were included. Studies of preterm infant attachment were also evaluated using a meta-analysis.


Studies of mother-preterm infant interactions showed that the differences in maternal interaction behavior between mothers of preterm infants and mothers of full-term infants seem to be most evident during the first six months of life. Differences in the preterm infant's interaction behavior seem also to continue for six months after birth. However, five of 18 studies showed an equal or even higher quality of mother-infant interaction in groups of preterm compared to groups of full-term infants. Studies of maternal and infant attachment indicated that preterm infants and their mothers are not at higher risk of insecure attachment than full-term infants and their mothers.


The mother-preterm infant relationship is complex, and some relational patterns forecast greater psychological risk than others. It is important to decrease maternal stress and early separation in every possible way during hospitalization as well as after discharge.

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