Dr. Ferro contributed to a paper titled “The children of preterm survivors: shyness, parenting, and parental stress” that examined shyness, parenting and parental stress in extremely low birth weight (ELBW) survivors compared to those with normal birth weights (NBW). Specifically, researchers wanted to explore intergenerational transmission of shyness using data from a prospectively followed cohort of ELBW survives and NBW controls. This is of particular interest as ELBW has been associated with higher rates of shyness, which is a stress vulnerability factor for mental illness and other adverse outcomes across the lifespan. This study is the first to examine parenting among ELBW survivors and the transmission of their shy personality phenotype to their children.
Results found that an early parenting environment that is overprotective and insensitive may influence ELBW survivors’ later experience of parenting stress and potentially negatively impact their offspring in the form of elevated levels of shyness. Together these findings suggest that parental adversity and stress may be transmitted to the next generation, as reflected in their perceptions of their children as shy and socially anxious. These personality phenotypes may in turn place their children at risk of mental and physical health problems later in life.