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Phenomena of Neonatology Open Access


Other title
relational ethics
parent-child relation
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
van Manen, Michael A
Supervisor and department
Byrne, Paul (Paediatrics)
Austin, Wendy (Nursing)
Examining committee member and department
Cheung, Po-Yin (Paediatrics)
Cameron, Brenda (Nursing)
Brett-MacLean, Pamela (Medicine)
Seamon, David (Architecture)
Adams, Catherine (Secondary Education)
Medical Sciences-Paediatrics

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
PURPOSE AND PROBLEM: Neonatology, the study of the newborn, marks the moment when the infant enters the world and encounters the parent. As the branch of medicine concerned with caring for this new child, neonatology facilitates the process of receiving the child. It is after the delivery, the birth, that the newborn becomes a child, a relational being with a parent. With this moment, the newborn does not just enter the pre-existing world of the culture; the newborn is the originator of the social, the family. Some infants are not simply received by their parents. Their birth is complicated by prematurity or medical problems prompting admission to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU is a techno-medical place equipped with technologies and personnel such that the parents may rarely find themselves situated in relation just with their child. How does such a parent experience his or her child? How do the techno-medical aspects mediate the relation? And consequently, what is the meaning of the ethical decisions that unfold? This study aims to gain insight into these experiences by considering the ethical encounter of the parent with the newborn child in the NICU. METHODOLOGY AND METHODS: The project is situated within a qualitative methodology, phenomenology of practice. This is a context-sensitive form of interpretive inquiry blending philosophical, human science, and philological methods. The aim is to identify and explore eidetic meaning aspects of the phenomenon of neonatology in text. Source experiential material was gathered by observation and interview of parents of children admitted to NICUs. SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY: The parental experience of encountering the newborn child in the NICU is a particularly consequential and overlooked area of study. The research papers of this study aim to facilitate knowledge translation by striving to develop insightful understanding in the people involved in this phenomenon. In other words, through presenting thematic events, evocative anecdotes, and reflective texts, the professional or lay reader may become more attuned to the ethical experiences that parents may encounter as their children require care in a NICU.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Van Manen, M. (in press). The medium, the message, and the massage of the neonatal monitor screen. In: Van Den Eede, Y., Bauwens, J., Beyl, J., Van den Bossche, M., & Verstrynge, K. (Eds.), Proceedings of ‘McLuhan’s Philosophy of Media’ – Centennial Conference / Contact Forum, 26-28 October 2011. Brussels, BE: Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.Van Manen, M. (2012). Technics of touch in the neonatal intensive care. Medical Humanities, 38(2), 91-96. doi:10.1136/medhum-2012-010204Van Manen, M. (2012). Ethical responsivity and pediatric parental pedagogy. Phenomenology & Practice, 6(1), 5-17. Retrieved from
Manen, M. (2012). Carrying: Parental experience of the hospital transfer of their baby. Qualitative Health Research, 22(2), 199-211. doi:10.1177/1049732311420447

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