Research suggests families whose infants are admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) experience elevated distress and may have pre-existing risk factors for maladjustment. This study sought to validate the newly developed Psychosocial Assessment Tool (PAT-NICU/Cardiac Intensive Care Unit [CICU]), a comprehensive screening measure for family psychosocial risk in the NICU.
The sample included 171 mothers, who completed the PAT-NICU/CICU and other related measures within 2 weeks of their infant’s NICU admission at a level 4 unit within a large pediatric hospital. PAT-NICU/CICU scores were compared to a companion risk survey completed by NICU social workers. Test–retest reliability was assessed through repeated measures at 2-month follow-up.
Analyses suggest the PAT-NICU/CICU is effective in classifying psychosocial risk. This is supported by statistically significant correlations between the PAT-NICU/CICU and validated measures, in addition to elevated scores on concurrent measures by risk classification. Internal consistency, test–retest reliability, and acceptability for the PAT-NICU/CICU were satisfactory.
This preliminary study demonstrates the validity, reliability, and acceptability of the PAT-NICU/CICU as a psychosocial screening tool to aid identification of families who may benefit from supportive services during NICU admission. This new measure is a more comprehensive tool that assesses a wide variety of risk factors and stress responses. However, future studies of this measure are needed with more diverse samples. Prompt screening of NICU parents may facilitate earlier linkage with appropriate levels of resources or intervention. This research is crucial in improving risk assessment and psychosocial care for families in the NICU.