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 nonbiological 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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Religious studies
- Applied Psychology