Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 1134–1144 | Cite as

Pathways to Parenting: Predictors of Prenatal Bonding in a Sample of Expectant Mothers and Fathers Exposed to Contextual Risk

  • Carolyn Joy DaytonEmail author
  • Suzanne Brown
  • Jessica Goletz
  • Laurel Hicks
  • Carla Barron
  • Michelle Sperlich
  • Joanne Smith-Darden
Original Paper



The parent-infant relationship begins during pregnancy and is foundational to the caregiving system that will guide early parenting behaviors. The current study extends prior work focused on the postnatal parenting relationship by examining parental risk and resilience factors on the prenatal parental-fetal bond in a sample of expectant mothers and fathers who reported high levels of exposure to contextual adversity, including poverty and violence.


Data were collected from 51 expectant mothers and the biological fathers as part of a longitudinal study examining the influence of bio-psycho-social factors on early parenting processes beginning in pregnancy. Associations between psychological distress, parental histories of maltreatment exposure, social support, and fathers’ views of the importance of fathering during infancy to the health and wellbeing of the infant, on parental-fetal bonding were examined using multiple linear regression.


For mothers, psychological distress was significantly associated with maternal-fetal bonding. For fathers, history of child maltreatment and views of fathering were significantly associated with bonding.


Findings suggest that interventions to enhance parent-fetal bonding should target separate factors for mothers and fathers.


Fathers Prenatal bonding Violence Attachment theory 


Author Contributions

C.J.D. designed and executed the study, contributed to data analyses and wrote the first full draft of the manuscript; S.B. contributed to the execution of the study, contributed to data analyses, and edited the manuscript; J.G. contributed to the execution of the study, contributed to data analyses and contributed to the writing of the study methods, L.H. contributed to the execution of the study, contributed to the writing of the study methods and edited the manuscript; C.B. contributed to the writing of the study introduction, methods and results and edited the manuscript; M.S. contributed to the theoretical framing of the paper and the writing of the introduction and edited the manuscript; J.S.D. collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.


This study was funded by a grant from the Lois and Samuel Silberman Faculty Grant Program.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The institutional review board at Wayne State University provided approval for this study.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  2. 2.Infant Mental Health Training ProgramMerrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family DevelopmentDetroitUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  4. 4.School of Social WorkUniversity at Buffalo, State University of New YorkBuffaloUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of DenverDenverUSA

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