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Comment & Response
July 2015

Behavioral Epigenetics of Family-Centered Care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Author Affiliations
  • 10-3 Center for the Study of Social Emotional Development of the At-Risk Infant, Scientific Institute, IRCCS Eugenio Medea, Bosisio Parini, Lecco, Italy
  • 2Department of Psychology, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano, Italy
JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(7):697-698. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.0367

To the Editor In an Editorial published in JAMA Pediatrics, Marlow1 highlighted a critical ethical dilemma for neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). The progress in neonatal sciences has led to higher survival rates for very preterm (VPT) infants. Nonetheless, the NICU is not a surrogate of the maternal womb. Physical and painful stimulations as well as socioemotional adversities are common sources of distress for both infants and parents. To adequately care for VPT infants, NICUs have progressively moved toward the active parents’ engagement, embracing family-centered interventions. Caregiver engagement is increasingly warranted as an ethical and effective practice2 to promote an aware assumption of parental roles. Nonetheless, evidence for effective family-centered and developmental care interventions is inconsistent and affected by variability in local practices.1 To this extent, we propose considering advances in developmental psychobiology (ie, behavioral epigenetics3) to establish a promising pathway to keep up with smart and ethical care for VPT infants.

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