Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Diana Morelen

Committee Members

Alyson Chroust, Rachel Miller-Slough, Matthew Tolliver


Admission of an infant into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is an experience that has been associated with a variety of both positive and negative health outcomes for parent and child. While both the setting name and the admitted population alludes to a sole focus on the affected infant, what often remains underrecognized is the impact on the ones who care for the newborn long before and longer after their NICU stay. Given the recency and unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, very little research has examined the impact of COVID-19-specific stress on the experience of parents of infants requiring a NICU stay in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. As such, the current study aimed to gather electronic survey data from caregivers (both biological and non-biological) of infants across the United States admitted to a NICU on or after March 1, 2020. Major factors addressed in the survey included anticipation of the NICU, COVID-19-specific stress, NICU-specific stress, global health outcomes (physical, mental, and social health), parental bonding, and parental self-efficacy. It was hypothesized that (1) COVID-specific stress and would be associated with suboptimal NICU experiences; (2) COVID-specific stress would be associated with worse parental health (physical, mental, and social) and parent-child relational health (bonding, self-efficacy) outcomes; (3) NICU stress and parental health would serve as mechanisms through which COVID-specific stress impacts parental-relational outcomes; (4) These associations would vary depending on whether or not a caregiver was anticipating that their infant would need to go to the NICU. Hypotheses were partially supported such that COVID stress was associated with increased NICU stress and poorer caregiver physical and social health. Unique patterns were found depending on facets of caregiver health. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.

Document Type

Dissertation - embargo


Copyright by the authors.