University of Tasmania
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Mental health symptom severity in preschool age children and their caregivers : impacts of gestational age, social risk, and caregiving capacity

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posted on 2024-04-19, 00:59 authored by Eleanor RiewoldtEleanor Riewoldt

Children born preterm are at risk of a specific cluster of mental health (MH) symptoms, including inattention, emotional dysfunction, social withdrawal, and internalising behaviours. Further, caregivers of children born preterm have been found to exhibit greater MH symptom severity in comparison to caregivers whose children were born at term. Various social and environmental factors influence the relationship between gestational age and MH symptom severity of both children and their caregivers. The current study aimed to investigate the relationships between gestational age and MH symptom severity of children aged three to five years, as well as the impact social and environmental factors have on this relationship. The current study also aimed to examine the relationship between gestational age and caregiver MH symptom severity, and how caregiver MH symptom severity continues to impact their child’s MH symptom severity. A total of 121 caregivers with children aged three to five years completed an online survey assessing their child’s and their own MH symptom severity, as well as examining social and environmental factors.
Results revealed gestational age was negatively correlated with child MH symptom severity for withdrawal behaviours, caregiver MH symptom severity was positively correlated with child MH symptom severity for all children, and increased levels of caregiver involvement may exhibit a protective influence on the child’s MH symptom severity as predicted by gestational age. These results indicate that lower gestational age may predispose children to adverse impacts on their MH, however caregiving capacity may assist to buffer some of the negative psychological effects resultant from preterm birth.



  • Master's Thesis


vii, 65 pages


School of Psychological Sciences


University of Tasmania

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Copyright 2023 the author

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