Maternal depressive symptoms in the postnatal period are associated with long-term impairment of mother–child bonding Original contribution First Online: 08 September 2006 Received: 12 June 2006 Accepted: 13 July 2006 DOI:
Cite this article as: Moehler, E., Brunner, R., Wiebel, A. et al. Arch Womens Ment Health (2006) 9: 273. doi:10.1007/s00737-006-0149-5 Summary Background: Postnatal Depression has demonstrated long-term consequences on child cognitive and emotional development, however, the link between maternal and child pathology has not been clearly identified. Objective: This study examined whether maternal bonding to the infant and young child is impaired by maternal depressive symptoms. Methods: 101 mothers of newborn infants were recruited from local obstetric units and examined for psychopathology using Symptom Checklist, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and the Postpartum Bonding Questionnaire at two weeks, six weeks, four months and fourteen months postpartum. Results: Maternal depressive symptoms at 2 weeks, 6 weeks and four months postnatally but not at fourteen months of infant’s age were found to be strongly associated with lower quality of maternal bonding to the infant and child from two weeks until fourteen months of postnatal age. Even mild and unrecognized maternal depressive symptoms had a significant impact on maternal bonding, if they occurred during the first four months of life. Conclusions: This gives reason for increased concern for mother–infant dyads in the first few months after birth that could be regarded as a highly sensitive period for the development of the mother–child relationship. The findings warrant further studies and inspire the development of preventive programs focussing on infant and early childhood mental health by emphasizing protection and support during the first critical months. Keywords: Maternal depressive symptoms; maternal bonding; mother–child-bonding; parent–child-relations. References Ainsworth, MD, Bell, SM 1977 Infant crying and maternal responsiveness: a rejoinder to Gewirtz and Boyd Child Devel 48 1208 1216 CrossRef Google Scholar Anisfeld, E, Lipper, E 1983 Early contact, social support and mother–infant bonding Pediatrics 72 79 83 PubMed Google Scholar Bergant, A, Nguyen, T, Moser, R, Ulmer, H 1998 Prevalence of depressive disorder in early puerperium Gynakol geburtshilfl dsch 38 232 237 CrossRef Google Scholar Brockington, IF, Oates, J, George, S, Turner, D, Vostanis, P, Sullivan, M, Loh, C, Murdoch, C 2001 A screening questionnaire for mother–infant-bonding disorders Arch Womens Ment Health 3 133 140 CrossRef Google Scholar Campbell, S, Brownell, C, Hungerford, A, Spieker, S, Mohan, R, Blessing, J 2004 The course of maternal depressive symptoms and maternal sensitivity as predictors of attachment security at 36 months Devel Psychopathol 16 231 252 CrossRef Google Scholar Cohn, JF, Campbell, SB, Matias, R, Hopkins, J 1990 Face-to-face interaction of postpartum depressed and nondepressed mother–infant pairs at 2 months Devel Psychol 26 15 23 CrossRef Google Scholar Cox, JL, Kolden, JM, Sagovsky, R 1987 Detection of postnatal depression: development of Edingburgh Postnatal Scale Br J Psychiatry 150 782 786 PubMed CrossRef Google Scholar Cox, JL, Murray, D, Chapman, G 1993 A controlled study of the onset, duration and prevalence of postnatal depression Br J Psychiatry 163 27 31 PubMed Google Scholar Derogatis, LR, Lipman, RS, Covi, L 1973 SCL-90: an outpatient psychiatric rating scale-preliminary report Psychopharmacol Bull 9 13 28 PubMed Google Scholar Eyer, DE 1994 Mother–infant bonding: A scientific fiction Hum Nat 5 69 94 Google Scholar Field, TM, Sandberg, D, Garcia, R, Vega-Lahr, N, Goldstein, S, Guy, L 1985 Pregnancy problems, postpartum depression and early mother–infant interactions Devel Psychol 21 1152 1156 CrossRef Google Scholar Franke, G 1992 Eine weitere Überprüfung der Symptom Checkliste (SCL 90 R) als Forschungsinstrument Diagnostica 38 160 167 Google Scholar
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