Mother-Child Interactive Behaviors and Cognition in Preschoolers Born Preterm and Full Term

Sarah J. Erickson, Susanne Duvall, Peggy C. MacLean, J. Scott Tonigan, Robin K. Ohls, Jean R. Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between child-mother interactive behaviors and cognition in preschoolers born preterm (<32 weeks gestation; n = 82) and full term (>37 weeks gestation; n = 53). Child-mother interactive behaviors were assessed during a videotaped free play session. Maternal education and neonatal medical factors were included as covariates. Although the preterm and full term groups showed some differences in child and mother interactive behaviors, we found that the child and mother behaviors associated with Verbal IQ (VIQ) and Performance IQ (PIQ) were the same for both children born preterm and full term and for both sexes. Child positive affect and quality of communication; and maternal responsiveness to verbal cues remained significantly associated with VIQ after controlling for sociodemographic variables. Children born preterm showed significantly less responsiveness to their mother and lower levels of play sophistication compared with children born full term. Mothers of children born preterm showed less emotional attunement, lower responsiveness to nonverbal cues, and lower quality of communication compared with mothers of children born full term. Models predicting VIQ and PIQ included maternal education, gestational age, maternal and child interactive behaviors, and one uniquely significant combined mother-child (interaction) term in each model. Child-mother interactive behaviors associated with VIQ and PIQ are the same for both children born preterm and full term and for both sexes, suggesting that similar interactive behaviors may be important in facilitating cognitive development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018



  • Cognition
  • Maternal-child interaction
  • Play
  • Preterm
  • Very low birth weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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