Theses Doctoral

Factors Impacting Psychological and Health Outcomes in Mothers and Infants Following NICU Hospitalization of the Infant

Lotterman, Jennifer Haley

Purpose: There is evidence that mothers of infants hospitalized in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) experience elevated rates of psychopathology. However, most studies have focused on very preterm infants, with little attention to mothers of moderate- to late-preterm infants. In addition, the majority of previous research has been cross-sectional, which does not allow for the examination of symptoms over time. Method: The current study investigated whether rates of psychopathology are elevated in mothers of moderate- to late-preterm infants during/following infant hospitalization in the NICU, and associated protective and risk factors. Mothers completed self-report questionnaires during the infant’s hospitalization and six months later. Results: Mothers of moderate- to late-preterm infants hospitalized in the NICU showed elevated rates of depression, anxiety, and PTSD compared to mothers of term infants at both baseline and six months post-birth. Importantly, no differences in psychopathology between mothers of moderate-preterm and late-preterm infants were found at either time point. A number of important risk factors were identified, including previous maternal mental illness, more severe infant health problems, and a lack of coping skills. Potential protective factors were also identified, including mother-infant contact, maternal optimism, and expectations about the infants potential for recovery. Limitations: The current study did not include mothers who were unable to visit the NICU or fathers/siblings, and future studies might include these groups to better understand familial adjustment to the NICU hospitalization of an infant. In addition, research in the future should examine a larger sample of NICU mothers in order to conduct more in-depth longitudinal analyses of risk and protective factors. Finally, future studies will need to pilot and test the efficacy of the proposed screening and programmatic components in order to assess feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness with the target population. Conclusions: These results may inform the development of NICU programming aimed at buffering the development of psychopathology in mothers. Identified risk and protective factors could help in effectively targeting intervention programs to mothers most in need while the infant is in the hospital and over time.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Clinical Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Bonanno, George A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 20, 2017