A new parent in times of crying. An association study separating for types of infant crying, types of parental distress, mothers and fathers.
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Giving birth brings along several challenges for the parents involved, along with an increased risk of developing different mental disorders. How parents cope with the crying of their newborn is pivotal in determining whether they develop symptoms of depression, anxiety or general parenting stress. This study researched how three distinct types of infant crying (separating for fussing, crying and inconsolable crying) and problems with infant crying as perceived by the parents relate to symptoms of different parental distress outcomes (parenting stress, depression, anxiety), separating for both mothers and partners. Furthermore, a moderating effect of a psychoeducational intervention is studied. 180 mothers and partners from the Netherlands joined this study, filling in a day-to-day diary of infant crying behaviour for three consecutive days. Other variables were assessed with questionnaires. Results of the moderation analyses showed the following: (1) duration of infant crying did not relate to parental distress; (2) the intervention was not significant as a moderator in any of the relationships; (3) two exceptions were found: inconsolable crying positively predicted maternal symptoms of anxiety, which was moderated by the intervention such that for participants of the intervention, the relationship was weaker; and infant fussing negatively predicted maternal parenting stress; (4) problems with infant crying as perceived by the parents significantly predicted all parental distress outcomes (depression, anxiety, parenting stress). An implication of this study is that problems with infant crying as perceived by parents might be a strong predictor of parental distress. Further research on duration of infant crying in relation to parental distress is needed, to clarify inconsistencies between studies.