Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Marcia Martin, PhD

Second Advisor

Cindy Christian, MD

Third Advisor

Diane Spatz, PhD

Abstract

National statistics show that infants have the highest child maltreatment victimization and fatality rate compared to all other age groups. NICU infants are represented in both the unique victim and fatality groups. Mothers are identified as the highest reported child maltreatment perpetrator group based on national statistics. NICU infants are at significant risk for maltreatment because the NICU environment potentially disrupts mother-infant attachment and the care required for the NICU infant is complex. In addition, mothers with infants in the NICU are at higher risk for trauma related stress, post-traumatic stress, and post-partum depression which can further impair their parenting abilities. This dissertation examines breastfeeding and the provision of human milk as a protective factor for child maltreatment of NICU graduates. Attachment theory is the theoretical framework used to examine child maltreatment and the particular risk to NICU graduates. This dissertation proposes that breastfeeding and the provision of human milk can strengthen attachment in the mother-infant dyad and therefore keep infants safer and in close proximity of the mother. Academic social work, medical, and nursing literature were reviewed to support or refute the hypothesis that breastfeeding and the provision of human milk can serve as a protective factor for NICU graduates. The literature offers support to this hypothesis that breastfeeding and the provision of human milk can potentially serve as a protective factor against child maltreatment. The dissertation informs social work practice in a NICU setting, contributes to the prevention of child maltreatment of NICU graduates, and supports professional collaborations between social work and nursing.

Included in

Social Work Commons

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