Get access

Schizophrenia, mental state, and mother– infant interaction: examining the relationship


  • Martien Snellen,

  • Kerry Mack,

  • Tom Trauer

  • Albert Road Centre for Health, Level 2, 60 Albert Road, South Melbourne, Victoria 3205, Australia.

  • Kerry Mack, Consultant Psychiatrist

  • North Park Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

  • Tom Trauer, Senior Lecturer

  • Department of Psychological Medicine, Monash University, Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne, Australia

MartienSnellen Consultant Psychiatrist, Lecturer, Department of Psychological Medicine, Monash University (Correspondence)


Objective: The aim of this study is to examine the role that disturbance of mental state of hospitalised mothers with a postpartum schizophrenic illness plays in determining the quality of mother–infant interactions.

Method: We examined the relationship between the nature and severity of symptomatology in mothers with schizophrenia and the quality of her interactions with her infant in a sample of 15 mother–infant dyads admitted to a psychiatric Mother–Baby Unit. Data were obtained at admission and discharge.

Results: Mothers with florid positive symptoms and prominent negative symptoms of schizophrenia and their infants were identified as being at particular risk of displaying disturbed interactions. The adverse contribution of negative symptoms was often not evident until after the positive symptoms had resolved.

Conclusions: Given that negative symptoms are often treatment resistant, optimal care of mothers with schizophrenia and their infants needs to involve ongoing therapeutic intervention which specifically addresses disturbances of mother–infant interaction. Further research is required to identify which interventions are likely to be of greatest benefit.