Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 449–451 | Cite as

Definitions matter: if maternal–fetal relationships are not attachment, what are they?

  • Judi WalshEmail author
Short Communication


Since Cranley's conceptualization in 1981, which produced a useful measure to investigate the construct, maternal–fetal relationships have most often been referred to as maternal–fetal, antenatal or prenatal “attachment”. However, critical analysis of the literature suggests that this relationship is not an attachment relationship at all, as Bowlby and Ainsworth first defined it, but a multi-faceted construct guided instead by the caregiving system, the reciprocal partner to the attachment system, which evolved to provide care and protection.


Maternal–fetal attachment Prenatal attachment Caregiving Fetal representations Relationships Pregnancy 



The author would like to thank Ben Marshall and Abigail Millings for their assistance and the two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments on an earlier draft of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social Work & PsychologyUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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