, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 155-167
Date: 22 Aug 2006

New Mothers’ Psychological Experience and Behavioral Interactions with their Infants in the First 12 Months

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We examined the psychological dimensions of parents’ perceptions of their infant children and their own abilities as parents at two observation points in a racially and socio-economically diverse sample of 174 mothers. Parenting perceptions and life circumstances were hypothesized to predict interactive behavior observed in the home. Baseline assessments were conducted in hospital, within 36 hr of delivery. Follow-up assessments were conducted in their homes when the children were 6 to 12 months old. Of five major psychological constructs studied, only parents’ perceptions of children, represented particularly by empathic responsiveness and absence of role-reversal, predicted the quality of behavioral interactions in the home. Perceptions of children were themselves predicted by parents’ perceptions of the quality of care they themselves received from their own parents, and by lifestyle stress. Our findings suggest that clinical interventions with parents should include a focus on strengthening reflective capacities with respect to caregiving experiences, and empathic responsiveness to their children.