Interactions between Mothers and their Premature American Indian Infants
The overall purpose of this longitudinal exploratory study was to describe the interactive behaviors of American Indian mothers and their prematurely born infants. The first study examined behaviors of American Indian mothers and their premature infants when the infants were 3, 6, and 12 months of age corrected for prematurity as well as the effects of infant illness severity (NBRS) and socioeconomic status (maternal education) on these behaviors. Higher infant illness severity was associated with more maternal touch, more infant vocalization, and fewer opportunities for variety in daily stimulation. Higher maternal education was associated with more maternal talk; more infant vocalization; less infant touch; and higher scores on the provision of appropriate play materials, parental involvement with the child, and opportunities for variety in daily stimulation subscales of the HOME. The second study compared the interactions of American Indian and African American mothers with their prematures when the infants were 6 months corrected age. Most of the interactions between American Indian mothers and their premature infants were similar to those of African American mothers and their premature infants. However, American Indian mothers were more often the caregivers, looked more, and gestured more to their infants than African American mothers. Furthermore, American Indian infants expressed more positive affect and gestured more to their mothers than African American infants. The third study explored Lumbee mothers' responses to the birth and hospitalization of their premature infant at 3 months and explored the extent to which these early responses were related to maternal experiences of parenting at 12 months. This study indicated that culture appeared to be important in Lumbee mothers' responses to having a premature infant in the hospital and in caring for their infants. Promoting a strong cultural identity and family involvement may be protective factors for American Indians that enhance child development and health of premature infants who are at high risk for developmental delays and illnesses.
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