Improving cognitive development of low-birth-weight premature infants with the COPE program: a pilot study of the benefit of early NICU intervention with mothers

Res Nurs Health. 2001 Oct;24(5):373-89. doi: 10.1002/nur.1038.


The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a parent-focused intervention program (COPE) on infant cognitive development and maternal coping. A randomized clinical trial was conducted with 42 mothers of low-birth-weight (LBW) premature infants hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), with follow-up at 3 months' and 6 months' corrected ages. COPE mothers received the four-phase educational-behavioral program that began 2-4 days postbirth and continued through 1 week following discharge from the NICU. Comparison mothers received audiotaped information during the same four time frames. Results indicated that COPE infants had significantly higher mental development scores at a 3 months' corrected age (M = 100.3) than did the comparison infants (M = 93.9), and this difference widened at 6 months' corrected age, with COPE infants scoring 14 points higher. COPE mothers were significantly less stressed by the NICU sights and sounds and had significantly stronger beliefs about what behaviors and characteristics to expect from their premature infants. Findings from this study support the need for further testing of early NICU interventions with parents to determine their effectiveness on parental coping and infant developmental outcomes.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Hospitalized
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Pilot Projects