Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Numerous studies have indicated that a woman who delivers a very low birthweight (VLBW; < 1500g at birth) infant is at increased risk for symptoms of psychological distress, both during the post-partum period and beyond. Benefit finding (BF), or the ability to extract positive value from negative circumstances, has been shown to be negatively associated with psychological distress in a variety of populations, but has rarely been examined among mothers of VLBW infants. Furthermore, few studies have addressed the relationship between BF and positive psychological adjustment (e.g., quality of life; QOL). The present study sought to test the hypothesis that BF would be positively associated with psychological well-being, and negatively associated with psychological distress. Participants (N = 68) were enrolled 3-5 weeks post-partum and completed measures of BF, QOL, positive and negative affect, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. As expected, there was a statistically significant omnibus multivariate effect of BF on quality of life and positive affect taken together. Contrary to hypothesized findings, BF was not significantly associated symptoms of depression, anxiety, and negative affect taken together. Univariate analyses confirmed these results; mothers with higher levels of BF reported significantly higher positive affect and marginally significantly higher QOL. Moreover, BF accounted for a significant proportion of the variability in positive affect over and above the contribution of other
covariates. Finally, infant health moderated the association between BF and QOL; there was a significant association between BF and QOL among mothers whose infants were most severely ill at birth. The findings indicate that BF may plan an important role in promoting positive psychological outcomes among mother of VLBW infants. Additionally, the results add to the increasing evidence that positive and negative psychological adjustment are orthogonal constructs and should be investigated as such. Further research, particularly longitudinal in design, is needed to help clarify the relationship between BF and psychological adjustment. If BF proves to be causally related to positive psychological adjustment, interventions aimed at increasing BF may improve outcomes for both mothers and VLBW infants.