Date of Award

2010

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Interdisciplinary Program

Advisor

Lucille Zeph

Second Committee Member

Carolyn Ball

Third Committee Member

Edward Laverty

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to examine the perceived needs and correlates of Maine parents of premature infants related to the chronological distance from the NICU. The study focused on identifying the perceived service needs of parents of premature children and how these needs changed over time, revealed the relationships between perceived service needs and parent and child characteristics, and outlined the social supports associated with perceived need. A sample of convenience was used to recruit Maine parents of premature infants born between 1990 and 2003. Survey responses from 134 parents were analyzed. Descriptive statistics were used for all survey items and indices. Bivariate statistics were completed to reveal relationships between relevant pairs. Inferential statistics were used to examine group differences. Descriptive analysis revealed that medical services were desirable to parents and contributed to their child's well-being. Sources of specialized knowledge were desirable and helped parents understand their child's condition. Over time, the desirability of medical services increased as did perception of need for specialized knowledge about the child's condition. Retrospective views indicated that other services and supports were only minimally beneficial. Parents who had a child with a NICU diagnosis or current diagnosis experienced greater perceived need at birth and at the present time. The investigator's recommendations include the coordination of research efforts with Maine Medical Center's longitudinal study, including long-term follow-up of NICU graduates; improved collaborative efforts between Maine NICUs and Child Development Services; adding the "at risk" category to Maine's early intervention regulations under Part C eligibility; and the development of an Individual Family Service Plan while the infant is in the NICU. This study identified that Maine parents of premature infants, in particular those parents whose child had a disability, perceived greater need later than at the birth of their premature infant. Longitudinal research is needed to determine what services and supports will assist parents in meeting their perceived needs within the NICU and subsequent to discharge, and what factors influence their needs over time. Emerging trends will provide helpful information in streamlining service delivery in health care, education, and community.

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