Care of preterm infants: programs of research and their relationship to developmental science.
The purpose of this review was to examine the topics covered in current programs of nursing research on the care of the preterm infant and to determine the extent to which this research is informed by developmental science. A researcher was considered to have a current program of research if he or she had at least five publications published since 1990 and was the first author on at least three of them. The infants in a study could be any age from birth throughout childhood; studies focusing on parenting, nursing, or other populations of infants were not included. Seventeen nurse researchers had current programs of research in this area. These programs had four themes. Those of Becker, Evans, Pridham, Shiao, and Zahr focused on infant responses to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) environment and treatments. Franck, Johnston, and Stevens focused on pain management. Harrison, Ludington-Hoe, and White-Traut's research focused on infant stimulation. Holditch-Davis, McCain, McGrath, Medoff-Cooper, Schraeder, and Youngblut studied infant behavior and development. These research programs had many strengths, including strong interdisciplinary focus and clinical relevance. However, additional emphasis is needed on the care of the critically ill infant. Also, despite the fact that the preterm infant's neurological system develops rapidly over the first year, only three of these researchers used a developmental science perspective. Only research on infant behavior and development focused on the developmental changes that the infants were experiencing. Most of the studies were longitudinal, but many did not use statistics appropriate for identifying stability and change over time. The response of individual infants and the broader ecological context as evidenced by factors such as gender, ethnic group, culture, and intergenerational effects were rarely examined. Thus research on the care of preterm infants could be expanded if the developmental science perspective formed the basis of more studies.
Holditch-Davis, D; Black, BP
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