OBJECTIVE: The aims of this study were to describe the mental health of parents of children born very preterm and examine relations between parental mental health and early social-emotional development in very preterm and term born children. METHODS: Participants were 177 children born very preterm and 69 children term born and their parents. At 2 year's corrected age for the children, parental mental health was assessed using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28), and child social-emotional development assessed using the Infant-Toddler Social-Emotional Assessment (ITSEA) and a structured parent-child interaction paradigm. RESULTS: Twenty-six per cent of parents of children born very preterm and 12% of parents of term born children reported clinically significant mental health problems. Parental mental health problems were associated with increased risk for dysregulation in very preterm and term children. CONCLUSIONS: Findings highlight the need to identify and support parents of children born very preterm with mental health difficulties.