Sacred Spaces: Religious and Secular Coping and Family Relationships in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Adv Neonatal Care. 2016 Aug;16(4):315-22. doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000263.


Background: Preterm birth is an unanticipated and stressful event for parents. In addition, the unfamiliar setting of the intensive care nursery necessitates strategies for coping.

Purpose: The primary study objective of this descriptive study was to determine whether secular and religious coping strategies were related to family functioning in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Methods: Fifty-two parents of preterm (25-35 weeks' gestation) infants completed the Brief COPE (secular coping), the Brief RCOPE (religious coping), and the Family Environment Scale within 1 week of their infant's hospital admission.

Findings: This descriptive study found that parents' religious and secular coping was significant in relation to family relationship functioning. Specifically, negative religious coping (ie, feeling abandoned or angry at God) was related to poorer family cohesion and use of denial.

Implications for practice: These findings have relevance for interventions focused toward enhancing effective coping for families.

Implications for research: Further study of religious and secular coping strategies for neonatal intensive care unit families is warranted in a larger more diverse sample of family members.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Family Relations*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pennsylvania
  • Psychometrics
  • Religion*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*