Date of Award

Summer 8-5-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Health Sciences


Health and Medical Sciences


Genevieve Pinto-Zipp, Ed.D

Committee Member

Terrence F. Cahill, Ed.D

Committee Member

Raju K. Parasher, Ed.D


Premature infants, Parents, Needs, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


Parents and/or caregivers of premature infants provide the interaction needed to promote better outcomes for these challenged infants at risk for developmental delays. This descriptive, exploratory study utilized convenience sampling. Inclusion criteria consisted of parents/caregivers who were at least 18 years of age and older with infants born 35 weeks gestation or less and currently in the NICU. This study focused on the research question: What do parents perceive they need in the NICU to enjoy interacting with their infant in the home? To collect the data needed to capture the perceptions of parent’s needs of infants in the NICU, open-ended questions were developed by the Principal Investigator (PI), based upon the Parent Child Interaction (PCI) questionnaire. Devised by the PI in a pilot study, the PCI questionnaire is a reliable and valid tool to investigate what information and needs parents/caregivers have before discharge to gain confidence and enjoy interacting with their infant. A qualitative research approach using a phenomenological approach was taken with five open-ended questions in 21 semi-structured focus groups. Retrieval of the information utilized groups ranging from two to four parents totaling 50 participants. Utilizing a thematic analysis with the PI and an objective second reader to attain trustworthiness of data, seven themes emerged from these intimate focus groups exploring the parent’s needs. The emergent themes are: 1) Roles and Responsibilities, 2) Communication and Parenting, 3) Self-Help, 4) Face-to-Face Education, 5) Consistency of Care, 6) Interaction with Infant, and 7) Be Heard. More contact with the infant produces increased confidence. Based on these themes, this study suggests that parents/caregivers feel there is a need for the consistent communication of information by professionals to parents/caregivers as well as by professionals with each other. Additionally, parents/caregivers would like to be perceived as the best source of knowing their infant's needs and would like more contact with their infant to gain confidence in caring for and enjoying their infant after release from the NICU. Imparting information to gain knowledge of how to care for and interact with their infant is perceived to be most effective when done on a one-to-one basis instead of through classes, technology/media, or handouts. This information will promote programming to develop better-informed parents to influence the parent/infant dyad interaction for improvement of the child’s overall development.