Exploring Adjustment and Parent–Infant Relations in Mothers of Premature Infants: Thematic Analysis Using a Multisensory Approach

Catalina Suarez, Pauline Adair, Nicola Doherty, David McCormack

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OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study was to explore mothers' experiences of having an infant born prematurely (28-32 weeks gestation). In particular, the study aimed to explore the developing parent-infant relationship 12-30 months since birth and the developing parental identity during hospitalization and discharge.

METHODS: Twelve mothers, aged between 22 and 43, participated in the semi-structured interviews. The mean age of infants was 19 months. Interviews comprised open-ended questions and visual stimuli consisting of photographs brought by participants, word selection, and card sorting techniques. Data were analyzed using Braun and Clarke's thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2013).

RESULTS: Three themes arose from a clustering of 10 subthemes: (a) Emotional Impact, (b) Searching for Parent Identity, and (c) Moving Beyond Adversity. Participants expressed experiencing heightened emotional distress during the time of their infants' birth and hospitalization and initially not feeling like parents. Their parental identity strengthened as they became more involved in the care of their infant and began to accept the situation. Participants described parenting their premature infants differently compared with parents of full-term infants, and described adjusting to this difference over time.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings highlight the emotional experience and adjustment of mothers of premature infants, from hospital and postdischarge. The need for psycho-educational interventions postdischarge and parent-partnered models during hospitalization is discussed. In addition, the study demonstrates the use of integrating visual stimuli in qualitative data collection procedures, to elicit further meaning and interaction from participants with the interview process.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pediatric Psychology
Early online date14 Mar 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 14 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Pediatric Psychology.


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