Preventing Vulnerable Child Syndrome in the NICU With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (PreVNT Trial) (PreVNT)

  • End date
    Jun 1, 2023
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Updated on 30 April 2022
Accepts healthy volunteers


This study is being done to see if outcomes for both a premature infant's parents and the infant born prematurely who have spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can be improved through parent cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions.


The NICU is a stressful experience for parents. This stress naturally affects parents in different ways, ranging from feelings of depression, anxiety, or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While these feelings are very common in parents of NICU children, they can also impact the ways parents perceive their infants, which leads to alterations of parenting styles and exposure to developmental activities for growing infants. This phenomenon is well described in the literature as Vulnerable Child Syndrome (VCS), or Parent Perceived Child Vulnerability (PPCV) to illness. Traumatic events from earlier experiences in the NICU usually cause PPCV to occur. Examples of traumatic events include feared death of the child, which lead to parent anxiety, depression, or emotional trauma. This altered perception of the child has been linked to worsened development outcomes for NICU children further out into childhood and also continued feelings of depression, anxiety, or fear in the parents and lack of confidence in their parenting abilities.

CBT sessions have been proven beneficial for NICU parents by decreasing feelings of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. However, there has not been research to see if CBT sessions are impactful for PPCV and the impacts it has on parent and child outcomes. Since literature suggests that depression, anxiety, and PTSD play an integral role in the development of PPCV and VCS, it could be assumed that CBT sessions should also be beneficial for PPCV and VCS. Therefore, this study will research if CBT sessions can improve parent-child interactions before and after discharge by helping parents to better understand their child's health and empower them with confidence in parenting skills. It will also evaluate if the effects of the CBT sessions will remain present and beneficial for parents' perceptions over time. With the results of this study, it will be evaluated if it is possible to improve the care for parents and children in the NICU as well as the long-term outcomes of parents and NICU children through CBT.

This will be a randomized control trial and will be conducted to assess the outcomes of infants and parents receiving either CBT sessions versus standard of care.

English and/or Spanish speaking parents of infants born at 30.6 weeks gestational age (GA) or less who survive to 33 weeks GA will be eligible to participate in the study. Families will be approached at 33 weeks GA to participate in the study. Once enrolled, the mother (and father, if willing to participate) will be randomized into a control group (standard NICU and follow up care information) versus the intervention group (standard NICU and follow up care information plus a total of 5 CBT sessions split between the NICU and outpatient clinic visits post discharge from NICU). The CBT sessions will address PPCV and VCS in parents and parenting skills to address preventing this. The CBT sessions will be standardized with a manual for study investigators to follow during sessions, and made with Dr. Richard Shaw from Stanford University, who wrote the prior CBT manual for anxiety, depression, and PTSD for NICU parents. Study staff will be trained to give the standardized CBT sessions using the manual via pilot sessions. There will be 3 CBT sessions given in the Parkland NICU before discharge and then 2 in the THRIVE follow up clinic at Children's Medical Center after discharge from the NICU.

Scales used for assessment will be distributed at enrollment to the study and upon completion of the CBT sessions.

Condition Premature Infant, Mental Health Issue (E.G., Depression, Psychosis, Personality Disorder, Substance Abuse), Development, Child, Parent-Child Relations
Treatment Cognitive behavioral therapy
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03906435
SponsorUniversity of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Last Modified on30 April 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Born at Parkland Hospital
English or Spanish speaking mother +/- father
≤ 30.6 weeks gestation at birth
Survival to 33 weeks gestation

Exclusion Criteria

Significant congenital anomalies
Child Protective Services (CPS) involvement or foster care placement
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