A longitudinal study of maternal attachment and infant developmental outcomes
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Extant research has demonstrated that compared to adults with insecure attachment styles, more securely attached parents tend to be more responsive, sensitive, and involved parents, resulting in improved outcomes for their children. Less studied is the influence of a mother's attachment style on her attachment to her unborn child during pregnancy and the consequent developmental outcomes of the child during early childhood. Thus, the aim of this prospective longitudinal study was to examine the relationship between maternal–fetal attachment (MFA) during pregnancy and infant and toddler outcomes and the role of mothers' attachment style on early childhood developmental outcomes in an economically disadvantaged sample of women and their children. Gamma regression modeling demonstrated that an avoidant maternal attachment style (b = .98, 95 % CI [.97, .98], p < 0.001) and post-partum depressive symptomatology (b = .97, 95 % CI [.96–.99], p = 0.03) were significant predictors of early childhood development. Women demonstrating higher avoidant attachment styles and greater depressive symptomatology were more likely to have children demonstrating early childhood developmental delays than those women with less avoidant attachment styles and less depressive symptomatology. Furthermore, women reporting higher MFA during pregnancy had more secure attachment styles, and their children had more optimal early childhood development than those women reporting lower MFA and less secure attachment styles. Findings have implications for enhancing early intervention programs aimed at improving maternal and childhood outcomes. An earlier identification of disruptions in attachment may be beneficial in tailoring interventions focused on the mother–child dyad.
KeywordsMaternal-fetal attachment (MFA) Maternal attachment style Post-partum depression Early childhood development
This research was supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research (F31 NR010957) and the National Center for Research Resources (5KL2RR025006), a component of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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