Caring, chaos and the vulnerable family: Experiences in caring for newborns of drug dependent parents

Fraser, Jennifer A., Barnes, Margaret, Biggs, Herbert C. and Kain, Victoria J. (2007) Caring, chaos and the vulnerable family: Experiences in caring for newborns of drug dependent parents. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 44 8: 1363-1370. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2006.06.004

Author Fraser, Jennifer A.
Barnes, Margaret
Biggs, Herbert C.
Kain, Victoria J.
Title Caring, chaos and the vulnerable family: Experiences in caring for newborns of drug dependent parents
Journal name International Journal of Nursing Studies   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0020-7489
Publication date 2007-11
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2006.06.004
Volume 44
Issue 8
Start page 1363
End page 1370
Total pages 8
Place of publication Oxford, U.K.
Publisher Pergamon Press
Language eng
Subject 1110 Nursing
Formatted abstract

Infants exposed to intrauterine drugs present a number of challenging features with which the new mother is faced. They can be irritable, unresponsive, and unpredictable. Available treatments require specialised neonatal care for the first four to six weeks of life; a critical time for the parent–infant attachment relationship to develop. Neonatal nurses have the opportunity to promote this development and ameliorate the effect of other developmental risk factors the baby is likely to experience.


The aim of this study was to explore neonatal nurses’ experiences of providing care to drug-exposed newborns and their parents throughout treatment for neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

Design, setting and participants

This study used interpretive methods by conducting group interviews with eight neonatal nurses in each of four Special Care Nursery Units in South-East Queensland, Australia.


Barriers to promoting the parent–infant attachment relationship were found to be both attitudinal and organisational. These barriers were significant, and were seen to impact negatively on optimal care delivery to this vulnerable population.


Unfortunately, the results of this study indicated that management of these babies and their parents is compromised by a range of attitudinal and organisational factors. There is a need to address these barriers to optimise care delivery and improve the way in which neonatal nurses impact on parent–infant relationships. Copyright © 2006 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.
Keyword Neonatal abstinence syndrome
Neonatal nursing
Parent–infant attachment
Drug-dependent parent
Q-Index Code C1

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - Collection
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 13 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Wed, 13 Jan 2010, 09:38:11 EST by Tara Johnson on behalf of Faculty Of Health Sciences