Washington: Parents of older, healthier newborns, who had less social support were less resilient during hospitalisation of their child in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), said a study.
The study was presented during the Pediatric Academic Societies 2019 Annual Meeting.
Published research indicated that higher resilience is associated with reduced psychological distress, but the phenomenon had not been studied extensively in parents of children hospitalised in a NICU.
“We know that having a child hospitalised in the NICU can be a high-stress time for families. The good news is that as parental resiliency scores rise, we see a correlation with fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. Parents who feel they have good family support also have higher resilience scores,” said Ololade Okito, lead author of the study.
The project is an offshoot of a larger study examining the impact of peer mentoring by other NICU parents who have experienced the same emotional rollercoaster ride as their tiny infants sometimes thrived and other times struggled.
The research team enrolled 35 parents whose newborns were 34 weeks gestation and younger and administered a battery of validated surveys, including The Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and Parent Stress Scale – NICU
40 per cent of these parents had high resilience scores; parents whose infants were a mean of 27.3 gestational weeks and who had more severe health challenges reported higher resilience.
Another 40 per cent of these parents had elevated depressive symptoms, while 31 per cent screened positive for anxiety. Parental distress impairs the quality of parent-child interactions and long-term child development, the research team writes.
“Higher NICU-related stress correlates with greater symptoms of depression and anxiety in parents. Specifically targeting interventions to these parents may help to improve their resilience, decrease the stress of parenting a child in the NICU and give these kids a healthier start to life,” said Lamia Soghier, the study’s senior author.