Parents’ spiritual struggles and stress: Associations with mental health and cognitive well-being following a neonatal intensive care unit experience.

When infants require care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after birth, their parents often experience a traumatic disruption in expectations of parenthood and encounter spiritual struggles related to their mental health. This study explored 185 parents’ reports on spiritual struggles and stress in association with their depression, anxiety, and well-being following their infant’s discharge from the NICU. Parents from the state of Pennsylvania who had an infant born between 26- and 34-weeks’ gestation (131 biological mothers, 52 biological fathers, 2 non-biological primary caregiver fathers) responded to questionnaires sent to mothers. Results indicated that parents who experienced higher levels of NICU-related stress also reported more depression, anxiety, and spiritual struggles, while reporting lower cognitive well-being. Further, even after accounting for NICU-related stress, spiritual struggles with ultimate meaning, in particular, remained significantly related to parents’ anxiety, depression, and well-being following NICU discharge. This research highlights the importance of exploring parents’ religious and spiritual struggles and mental health after the experience of a potentially traumatic life event, such as a NICU stay. Implications for family-based NICU interventions are also discussed.

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Work Title Parents’ spiritual struggles and stress: Associations with mental health and cognitive well-being following a neonatal intensive care unit experience.
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Open Access
Creators
  1. Gina M. Brelsford
  2. Kim K. Doheny
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
Publisher
  1. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality
Publication Date September 1, 2020
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
  1. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000381
Deposited November 18, 2021

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  • Added Creator Gina M. Brelsford
  • Added Creator Kim K. Doheny
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