OBJECTIVE: To (1) compare adolescent- and parent-perceived family functioning between extremely preterm/extremely low birth weight (<28 wk/<1000 g, EP/ELBW) and normal birth weight (>2499 g, NBW) adolescents and (2) determine whether adolescents' or parents' ratings of family functioning were related to concurrent depression and anxiety symptoms in the adolescent and whether these relationships varied by birth group.
METHODS: One hundred ninety-three EP/ELBW and 151 NBW adolescents (aged 15-20 yr) and their parents rated aspects of family functioning on the Family Environment Scale. Adolescents rated current depression and anxiety symptoms on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale-Revised and Beck Anxiety Inventory. Family functioning was compared across the groups using linear regression, and logistic regression was used to assess relationships between family functioning domains and elevated depression and anxiety scores.
RESULTS: Compared with NBW controls, EP/ELBW adolescents reported similar levels of family Cohesiveness and Expressiveness, but less Conflict, and more Organization and Control. Parent ratings of family functioning were similar between groups except for higher Control scores in EP/ELBW group parents. Poorer family functioning as rated by adolescents, but not parents, was associated with increased depression/anxiety symptoms. These findings were generally consistent across both the EP/ELBW and control groups.
CONCLUSION: EP/ELBW adolescents report generally positive family functioning. While adolescents' perceptions of family functioning are associated with concurrent adolescent mental health, parental perceptions of family functioning may not be indicative of adolescents' mental health. Importantly, EP/ELBW adolescents do not appear to be more vulnerable to anxiety/depression in the context of poorly perceived family functioning than their NBW peers.