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Maternal Stress during Hospitalization of the Adopted Child

Smit, Eileen M. MSN, RN

MCN, American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing:
Feature Articles: Clinical Research

Purpose: To identify and describe the experiences of mothers whose adopted children are hospitalized and to compare those experiences to those of mothers whose biological children are hospitalized.

Design: Comparative descriptive design.

Methods: Mothers of hospitalized children (n = 33 adopted; n = 19 biological) completed a slightly revised version of the Parental Stressor Scale: Pediatric Intensive Scale Unit (PSS:PICU). Adoptive mothers also completed a questionnaire related to their perceptions of the impact of their child's adoption on the hospitalization experience.

Results: Adoptive mothers perceived statistically significantly higher levels of stress related to their child's behavioral/emotional response to hospitalization. Children who had been with the family for less time perceived the hospitalization as more stressful. When both groups of mothers were considered, mothers of younger children perceived a higher level of stress. A majority of adoptive mothers felt the adoption had an impact on the hospitalization experience, especially related to their limited information about their child's medical history, staff lack of knowledge about legal issues, and concern about attachment to the child.

Clinical Implications: Nurses need to be aware of adoptive mothers' concerns related to attachment issues, limited family medical history, and legal rights in order to provide sensitive and effective care. Inservice education programs could be designed to help teach all staff about these important issues.

Author Information

Eileen M. Smit is a Professor, Department of Nursing, Northern Michigan University, Marquette, Michigan. She can be reached at Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, Michigan 49855; e-mail:

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.