Depressive Symptoms, Dyadic Coping, and Attachment to the Fetus in Expectant Fathers: A Moderated-Mediation Analysis

  • Tânia BrandãoEmail author
  • Rute Brites
  • João Hipólito
  • Mónica Pires
  • Maria Lurdes Vasconcelos
  • Odete Nunes
Original Paper



Father-fetal attachment is an important contributor to future father-infant relationship and to child outcomes. The aim of this study was to examine factors potentially associated with the levels of attachment to the fetus. Specifically, we explored the association between fathers’ depressive symptoms and father-fetal attachment and examined the potential mediating role of dyadic coping in this association. Moreover, the moderated role of parity (be or not a first-time father) was tested.


Expectant fathers (N = 302; M age = 33.38; SD = 5.82) completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Dyadic Coping Inventory and the Paternal Antenatal Attachment Scale.


Results of the moderated-mediation model indicated that more depressive symptoms were associated directly and indirectly, through lack of positive dyadic coping (but not through negative dyadic coping), to the father-fetal attachment. Specifically, while for non-first-time fathers their depressive symptoms were associated with lower levels of attachment to the fetus only when they experienced lower levels of positive dyadic coping, for first-time fathers depressive symptoms were associated with lower levels of attachment to the fetus regardless of their levels of positive dyadic coping.


It seems that, for fathers both intrapersonal and interpersonal factors are associated with the levels of attachment to the fetus. These findings can contribute to inform psychosocial interventions and research about men’s needs during pregnancy.


Depression Dyadic coping Father-fetus attachment Expectant fathers Moderated-mediation 



This research has been partially funded by Portuguese national funds through FCT—Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology—as part of the project Centre for Research in Psychology—UAL Refª UID/PSI/04345/2013.

Author Contributions

T.B. designed and executed the study, performed the data analyses, and wrote the paper. R.B. collaborated with the design, data analyses, and writing of the study. M.P., J.H., M.L.V., and O.N. collaborated with the design of the study and in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (namely, the Ethical Committee of the Center for Research in Psychology from Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa Luís de Camões) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

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


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de PsicologiaUniversidade Autónoma de Lisboa Luís de Camões, CIPLisboaPortugal
  2. 2.CPUP—Center for Psychology at University of PortoLisboaPortugal

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