Preterm Birth: Risks for the Development of Children and Psychophysical Health of Parents


  • Jelena Ombla Sveučilište u Zadru, Odjel za psihologiju, Zadar, Hrvatska
  • Marina Vidaković Sveučilište u Zadru, Odjel za psihologiju, Zadar, Hrvatska
  • Ana Slišković Sveučilište u Zadru, Odjel za psihologiju, Zadar, Hrvatska


preterm birth, risks, children, parents, support


The aim of this review is to highlight possible risks preterm birth can have for the development of children and to present the results of recent research on psychophysical health of parents of prematurely born children. Research shows that, for children, the consequences of preterm birth can be serious, with the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders increasing with lower gestational age of the child as well as birth weight. For parents, the effects of child’s preterm birth can manifest immediately and/or long-term, and range from an acute stress reaction, to post-traumatic stress syndrome, difficulties in the development of attachment, persistent intense worry and fear for the child, which is further emphasized by the child’s transition from a hospital environment to home care. Initial emotional and informative support of the medical staff, practicing kangaroo care, as well as the availability of mental health experts and informal support sources are extremely important for parents’ adaptation. A review of contemporary research points to the need for further investigation of factors associated with the (un)successful psychophysical adaptation of parents to the premature birth of a child and the care of a premature infant. Since adequate parental coping is an important prerequisite for developmental outcomes in neuro-risk children, it is important to provide support programs for parents in order to strengthen their knowledge and competences.