The effects of prior infertility on parenting self-efficacy and child outcomes.


Infertility is classified as a disease by the World Health Organization and affects 8-12% of reproductive-aged couples worldwide. It has been associated with negative mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Fortunately, assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) has aided many previously infertile couples in having children, and research suggests little difference in psychosocial outcomes between parents who conceive through ART and those who conceive spontaneously. However, adjustment to parenthood and parenting in the context of prior infertility is not well understood. The present study seeks to add to the emerging literature of reproductive psychology by assessing parenting self-efficacy specifically within an ART population. It also investigates whether prior infertility history has an impact on the association between parenting self-efficacy and child social-emotional problems. A national online sample of 369 mothers (171 ART, 198 control) of children under the age of 6 years completed a series of self-report measures including a demographic questionnaire, the Burden of Infertility and Treatment Scale (BIT), the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale (PSOC), and the Baby and Preschool Pediatric Symptom Checklists (BPSC and PPSC). Results of an independent samples t-test indicated significantly lower parenting self-efficacy in the ART group in comparison to the control group. Pearson correlations indicated parenting self-efficacy was not directly associated with infertility history or child age; however, it was significantly associated with child social-emotional problems. Finally, multiple hierarchical linear regression analyses found the interaction between parenting self-efficacy and infertility history accounted for a significant amount of variance in child social-emotional problems as measured by the PPSC, but not by each of the BPSC subscale scores. Post hoc analyses indicate the sample size of participants with children under 18 months of age may have been too low to detect a significant interaction effect in models with BPSC subscale scores. These results highlight the potential impact of prior infertility on parenting self-efficacy and child social-emotional functioning, and it provides support for early intervention with mothers who conceive through ART.



Infertility. Assisted reproductive technology. ART. Parenting. Parenting self-efficacy.