1. Ihlenfeld, Janet T. RN, PhD

Article Content

Allen EC, Manuel JC, Legault C, Naughton MJ, Pivor C, O'Shea TM. Perception of child vulnerability among mothers of former premature infants. Pediatrics. 2004;113(2):267-273.


Premature infants are often regarded by their parents as being prone to continued health problems. This study investigated whether mothers of premature infants expected their child to be susceptible to further health difficulties. A sample of 116 mothers of premature infants (<32 weeks gestation and a diagnosis of chronic lung disease) were surveyed as part of a larger study following premature infants from discharge into the community.


The mothers completed various questionnaires determining their perceptions relating to their own anxiety state at discharge, depression rates, social supports, and other characteristics. These questionnaires included:


* Vulnerable Child Scale: testing the mothers' opinions of their child's health


* Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory: testing the mothers' anxiety levels


* Beck Depression Inventory: gathering information on whether the mothers were depressed


* Life Orientation Test: gathering data on whether the mothers were optimistic


* General Health Survey: Ladder of Life: obtaining the mothers' opinions on their life satisfaction


* Medical Outcomes Study: testing the degree of social support in the mothers' lives


* Impact on Family Scale: gathering data on how the family was coping with the premature infant.



The premature infants' abilities at 1 year of age (corrected for prematurity) were gathered using 2 tools and a chart review of the infants' actual health problems at 1 year. These tools included the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale to gather information on their daily living and motor skills and the Bayley Scales of Infant Development which assess the achievement of developmental tasks in the infants.


The results showed that mothers of infants who were sicker at discharge exhibited more anxiety at the 1-year point of their child's life. This was also true for mothers where the premature infant was not the first-born. Infants with higher vulnerability according to objective observations at 1 year (ie, tube feeding, oxygen, tracheostomy) also tended to have mothers with higher depression, lower optimism, and decreased life satisfaction scores.


The researchers recommended that the mothers of premature infants be given ample opportunities to seek out support groups and other means of assistance to help them care for their premature infants after discharge. Mothers who receive support at discharge and soon thereafter may have better perceptions toward their infants as time goes on.