Moderate low birth weight and socioemotional competence among children: The role of parenting factors in early childhood

Publication Year


Journal Article

Although the importance of birth weight for socioemotional trajectories among children has become a topic of growing interest for researchers, the majority of prior studies were limited to the more extreme subgroups of low birth weight children.

The purpose of this study was to examine the longitudinal associations among moderate low birth weight status, parenting factors, and socioemotional competence among at-risk children. This paper also examined the role of parenting factors as a moderator in the associations between birth weight and indicators of socioemotional competence at age 9.

Participants include a subsample (N = 1809) of families participating in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a national longitudinal birth cohort study. Birth weight and prenatal data were taken from medical records. Parenting factors were assessed during in-home assessments at ages 3 and 5. Teachers reported on externalizing behaviors and social skills at age 9. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the associations among study variables.

Overall, results indicate that moderate low birth weight was significantly associated with lower levels of teacher-reported socioemotional competence at age 9 even after accounting for a large battery of control variables. Results also showed that maternal warmth, but not parenting stress, moderated the longitudinal association between birth weight and indicators of socioemotional competence.

Findings highlight the importance of birth weight and positive parenting processes in socioemotional outcomes among children. The implications of these findings are discussed for targeting positive parenting interventions and developmental outcomes for at-risk children.

Journal of pediatric nursing