Poverty increases the risk of poorer executive function (EF) in children born full-term (FT). Stressors associated with poverty, including variability in parenting behavior, may explain links between poverty and poorer EF, but this remains unclear for children born very preterm (VPT). We examine socioeconomic and parental psychosocial adversity on parenting behavior, and whether these factors independently or jointly influence EF in children born VPT. At age five years, 154 children (VPT = 88, FT = 66) completed parent-child interaction and EF tasks. Parental sensitivity, intrusiveness, cognitive stimulation, and positive and negative regard were coded with the Parent-Child Interaction Rating Scale. Socioeconomic adversity spanned maternal demographic stressors, Income-to-Needs ratio, and Area Deprivation Index. Parents completed measures of depression, anxiety, inattention/hyperactivity, parenting stress, and social-communication interaction (SCI) problems. Parental SCI problems were associated with parenting behavior in parents of children born VPT, whereas socioeconomic adversity was significant in parents of FT children. Negative parenting behaviors, but not positive parenting behaviors, were related to child EF. This association was explained by parental depression/anxiety symptoms and socioeconomic adversity. Results persisted after adjustment for parent and child IQ. Findings may inform research on dyadic interventions that embed treatment for parental mood/affective symptoms and SCI problems to improve childhood EF.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • executive function
  • parenting
  • poverty
  • prematurity


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