Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 29–38 | Cite as

Mother–infant bonding impairment across the first 6 months postpartum: the primacy of psychopathology in women with childhood abuse and neglect histories

  • Maria Muzik
  • Erika London Bocknek
  • Amanda Broderick
  • Patricia Richardson
  • Katherine L. Rosenblum
  • Kelsie Thelen
  • Julia S. Seng
Original Article


Our goal was to examine the trajectory of bonding impairment across the first 6 months postpartum in the context of maternal risk, including maternal history of childhood abuse and neglect and postpartum psychopathology, and to test the association between self-reported bonding impairment and observed positive parenting behaviors. In a sample of women with childhood abuse and neglect histories (CA+, n = 97) and a healthy control comparison group (CA−, n = 53), participants completed questionnaires related to bonding with their infants at 6 weeks, 4 months, and 6 months postpartum and psychopathology at 6 months postpartum. In addition, during a 6-month postpartum home visit, mothers and infants participated in a dyadic play interaction subsequently coded for positive parenting behaviors by blinded coders. We found that all women, independent of risk status, increased in bonding with their infant over the first 6 months postpartum; however, women with postpartum psychopathology (depression and posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]) showed consistently greater bonding impairment scores at all timepoints. Moreover, we found that, at the 6-month assessment, bonding impairment and observed parenting behaviors were significantly associated. These results highlight the adverse effects of maternal postpartum depression and PTSD on mother–infant bonding in early postpartum in women with child abuse and neglect histories. These findings also shed light on the critical need for early detection and effective treatment of postpartum mental illness in order to prevent problematic parenting and the development of disturbed mother–infant relationships. Results support the use of the Postpartum Bonding Questionnaire as a tool to assess parenting quality by its demonstrated association with observed parenting behaviors.


Maternal childhood abuse and neglect history Postpartum depression Postpartum PTSD Mother–infant bonding Parenting behaviors 



Support for this research or manuscript preparation was provided by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (MH080147; PI: Muzik) and the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR) at the University of Michigan (UL1RR024986; PI: Muzik). The authors wish to thank the mothers and children who made this research possible and gratefully acknowledge the valuable research assistance of Ellen Waxler, Amanda Fezzey, Heather Cameron, Rena Menke, Alexi Wisher, Lauren Earls, Lori Stark, Ryan Hill, and Kayla Frick.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Muzik
    • 1
    • 2
  • Erika London Bocknek
    • 1
  • Amanda Broderick
    • 1
  • Patricia Richardson
    • 1
  • Katherine L. Rosenblum
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kelsie Thelen
    • 1
  • Julia S. Seng
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Depression CenterUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Center for Human Growth and DevelopmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Research on Women and GenderAnn ArborUSA

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