Stress appraisal and coping in mothers of premature and at-risk infants
Feldman-Reichman, Sara R.
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A study of the way a mother copes with the stress and birth of a premature and at risk infant was undertaken. Stress was viewed from a transactional point of view, and thus the interplay of the stressful event on the environment was emphasized. It was posited that it was the appraisal of the stressor which was a key element in how a mother coped. Cognitive-behavioral theories of stress and coping were therefore the theoretical basis for this study. Moreover, factors that mediated stress such as a social support network as well as specific emotion-focused and problem-focused coping strategies were assessed in order to see their relationship to the mother's psychological functioning.;Thirty-five mothers participated in the study, and all had children who were being following at a neonatal follow-up clinic. Their children ranged in age from three to twenty-four months.;Mothers who experienced stress that they viewed as more uncontrollable and threatening in nature reported greater psychological symptomatology. Problem-focused coping strategies, especially where planful problem solving was implemented, was associated with better psychological functioning. Conversely, the emotion-focused coping strategy of escape avoidance as well as the use of the coping strategies of accepting responsibility and self-controlling were associated with poorer psychological functioning. It was also found that those who had a larger social support network reported better psychological functioning. Though, satisfaction with all the support received was not associated with better functioning, satisfaction with one's child physician was a significant indicator of better functioning. The implications of these findings for intervention and future research with this population were discussed.