Foster Mother–Infant Bonding: Associations Between Foster Mothers' Oxytocin Production, Electrophysiological Brain Activity, Feelings of Commitment, and Caregiving Quality


  • This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grants F31MH085423 to the first author and R01MH084135, R01MH052135, and R01MH074374 to the second author. We acknowledge the support of the Delaware Division of Family Services and the caseworkers, foster families, and children involved in this project.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Johanna Bick, Yale Child Studies Center, 203 S. Frontage Road, New Haven, CT 06511. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study examined the biological processes associated with foster mother–infant bonding. In an examination of foster mother–infant dyads (N = 41, mean infant age = 8.5 months), foster mothers' oxytocin production was associated with their expressions of behavioral delight toward their foster infant and their average P3 response to images of all infant faces in the first 2 months of the relationship. Three months later, foster mothers' oxytocin production was still associated with delight toward their foster infant and was also specifically associated with their P3 response to an image of their foster infant. Similar to biologically related mothers and infants, oxytocin appears to be associated with foster mothers' brain activity and caregiving behavior, with patterns suggestive of bond formation.