Background The traumatic births of Extremely Preterm (EPT) infants and long hospital stay may affect parent-child interaction, the child’s attachment security negatively and impact relationships in adult life.
Aim To investigate whether EPT birth affects attachment in adulthood.
Subjects 39 young EPT born adults (gestational week, mean (SD), 27 (1.0), birth-weights 990g (228)) and 39 full-term (FT) controls, all part of a South Swedish cohort born 1985–86 < 29th gestational weeks. EPT spent, mean (SD) 51(20) days in NICU.
Methods Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) and WAIS-III, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.
Results AAI: Significantly more EPT adults had an unsecure attachment style. 37 % EPT vs. 75% FT were secure attached (p=0.006). WAIS-III: There were significant differences between the EPT- and FT-groups on Full Scale IQ (FSIQ), mean (SD) 92.8(15.4) vs. 105.7 (12.5), p<0.001. In the EPT group statistically significant correlations were shown between Secure and Insecure attachment, the attachment variables Coherence of Mind, Coherence of Transcript and Full Scale Intelligence Quotient. No statistically significant correlations were obtained in the FT- group.
Conclusions Extremely Preterm born, when young adults, shows significantly lower IQ-scores, have negative self and positive others model and shows a higher proportion of insecure attachment. To our knowledge, this is the first study to report data on EPT and its impact on the attachment organization in adulthood. Insecure attachment, low IQ and prematurity may be considered as significant risk factors for developing psychopathology, they deserve careful attention in future research and clinical follow-ups.
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