Internal and External Resources and the Adjustment of Parents of Premature Infants

Abstract

Studies have shown premature birth and infant hospitalization to be associated with increased levels of parental distress. Internal and external psychological resources have been found to mitigate distress among persons coping with stressful medical events. The current study evaluated psychological resources and distress in 87 parents (57 mothers and 30 fathers) to whom an infant was born prematurely and hospitalized in the NICU of a large tertiary medical center. Parents were administered standardized measures of internal (problem-solving skills) and external (total spousal support, adequacy of spousal support) psychological resources and of psychological distress (depression, posttraumatic symptoms, and mood). Findings indicated that higher levels of problem-solving skills and more adequate spousal support, but not total spousal support, were related to lower levels of parental distress. Adequacy of spousal support and parents’ problem-solving skills accounted for 18% of the variance in overall mood and 13.8% of the variance in posttraumatic stress symptoms. A significant two-way interaction was found between adequacy of spousal support and problem-solving skills such that individuals with better problem-solving skills reported better overall mood independent of the adequacy of spousal support they receive. However, for individuals with poor problem-solving skills, the adequacy of the spousal support they receive was a significant factor in determining their overall mood. The theoretical and clinical implications of these findings are discussed in terms of the accessibility of these resources to assessment and their potential for change via existing intervention approaches.

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Correspondence to Michael J. Dolgin.

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Tal Shani-Sherman, Michael J. Dolgin, Leah Leibovitch, and Ram Mazkereth declare that they have no conflict of interests.

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Shani-Sherman, T., Dolgin, M.J., Leibovitch, L. et al. Internal and External Resources and the Adjustment of Parents of Premature Infants. J Clin Psychol Med Settings 26, 339–352 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10880-018-9583-6

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Keywords

  • Premature infants
  • Parental distress
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Spousal support