Maternal attachment state of mind moderates the impact of postnatal depression on infant attachment
Article first published online: 28 SEP 2005
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Volume 47, Issue 7, pages 660–669, July 2006
How to Cite
McMahon, C. A., Barnett, B., Kowalenko, N. M. and Tennant, C. C. (2006), Maternal attachment state of mind moderates the impact of postnatal depression on infant attachment. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47: 660–669. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01547.x
- Issue published online: 28 SEP 2005
- Article first published online: 28 SEP 2005
- Manuscript accepted 18 May 2005
- Attachment state of mind;
- postnatal depression;
Background: Empirical studies have revealed a significant, but modest association between maternal depression and insecure mother–child attachment. Across studies, however, a substantial number of mothers with depression are able to provide a sensitive caretaking environment for their children. This paper aimed to explore whether a mother's own state of mind regarding attachment moderated the association between postpartum depression and insecure mother–child attachment.
Methods: Mothers (n = 111), mainly middle-class mothers, and their infants participated in a longitudinal study of postnatal depression, maternal attachment state of mind and child attachment. Depression was assessed using a diagnostic interview (at 4 and 12 months) and symptom checklists (at 4, 12 and 15 months). The Adult Attachment Interview was conducted at 12 months and the Strange Situation procedure at 15 months.
Results: Mothers diagnosed as depressed were more likely to have an insecure state of mind regarding attachment. Infants of chronically depressed mothers were more likely to be insecurely attached; however, the relationship between maternal depression and child attachment was moderated by maternal attachment state of mind.
Conclusions: Results are discussed with reference to resiliency factors for women with postnatal depression and implications for intervention.