Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 87–94 | Cite as

Association between parental depressive symptoms and impaired bonding with the infant

  • Birgitta KerstisEmail author
  • Clara Aarts
  • Carin Tillman
  • Hanna Persson
  • Gabriella Engström
  • Birgitta Edlund
  • John Öhrvik
  • Sara Sylvén
  • Alkistis Skalkidou
Original Article


Impaired bonding with the infant is associated with maternal postpartum depression but has not been investigated extensively in fathers. The primary study aim was to evaluate associations between maternal and paternal depressive symptoms and impaired bonding with their infant. A secondary aim was to determine the associations between parents’ marital problems and impaired bonding with the infant. The study is part of a population-based cohort project (UPPSAT) in Uppsala, Sweden. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum and the Postpartum Bonding Questionnaire at 6 months postpartum were completed by 727 couples. The prevalence of impaired bonding was highest among couples in which both spouses had depressive symptoms. Impaired bonding was associated with higher EPDS scores in both mothers and fathers, as well as with experiencing a deteriorated marital relationship. The association between maternal and paternal impaired bonding and the mothers’ and fathers’ EPDS scores remained significant even after adjustment for relevant confounding factors. Depressive symptoms at 6 weeks postpartum are associated with impaired bonding with the infant at 6 months postpartum for both mothers and fathers. It is critical to screen for and prevent depressive symptoms in both parents during early parenthood.


Bonding Depressive symptoms Fathers Infant Mothers Relationship 



We thank all the mothers and fathers who took part in the study.

Author’s contributions

Birgitta Kerstis, Clara Aarts, Carin Tillman, Hanna Persson, John Öhrvik, Gabriella Engström, Birgitta Edlund, Sara Sylvén, and Alkistis Skalkidou participated in data analysis, drafting and critical manuscript review. John Öhrvik provided statistical expertise. All authors have seen and approved the final version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Birgitta Kerstis
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Clara Aarts
    • 2
  • Carin Tillman
    • 3
  • Hanna Persson
    • 4
  • Gabriella Engström
    • 5
  • Birgitta Edlund
    • 2
  • John Öhrvik
    • 1
    • 6
  • Sara Sylvén
    • 4
  • Alkistis Skalkidou
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre for Clinical ResearchUppsala University, Västmanland County HospitalVästeråsSweden
  2. 2.Departments of Public Health and Caring SciencesUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  4. 4.Department of Women’s and Children’s HealthUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  5. 5.Christine E. Lynn College of NursingFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA
  6. 6.Department of MedicineKarolinska InstituteStockholmSweden

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