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The purpose of this study was to compare the perceptions of mothers of preterm infants with the perceptions of the mothers of term infants, and to identify the variables related to these perceptions that may place these infants at increased risk for later psychosocial problems. The Neonatal Perception Inventory (NPI II), a simple, often-used assessment of maternal perceptions, was used for this study. Subjects were 36 mothers of healthy, term infants and 14 mothers of healthy, preterm infants who delivered at a regional perinatal center. The NPI II was mailed to the mothers after their infants had been home from the hospital for approximately four weeks. Mothers of preterm infants scored in the high risk category on the NPI II more frequently than mothers of term infants. And, mothers with high risk perceptions were more likely to be primiparae. The strong association between risk and parity, and between group and risk led to the finding that all primiparous mothers who gave birth to preterm infants fell into the high risk category on the NPI II. Also, mothers who scored in the high risk category on the NPI II delivered infants of lower birthweight, younger gestational ages and had lower Apgar Scores at 1 and 5 minutes after birth. Mothers' perceptions of their infants at four weeks of age were found to be independent of the mother's age, educational level, marital status, income level, whether the pregnancy was planned type of delivery, sex of the infant, whether the infant was hospitalized in the Newborn Nursery or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, whether the infant experienced any neonatal complications, whether the infant was breast or bottle fed, and whether or not the infant was discharged from the hospital with their mother. Differences found between the mothers of preterm and term infants on certain sociodemographic and situational factors support previous studies regarding factors that are associated with preterm infants. More importantly, this study identified a target group of mothers who were previously unstudied--first-time mothers who deliver preterm infants--whose children may be at risk for later psychosocial disorders.