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Psychiatry Res. 2011 Apr 30;186(2-3):281-6. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2010.06.015. Epub 2010 Jul 27.

The evaluation of emotional facial expressions in early postpartum depression mood: a difference between adult and baby faces?

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Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition et l'Apprentissage, Université de Poitiers, F-86000 Poitiers Cedex, France.


Research suggests that depressive individuals exhibit disturbances in the evaluation of emotional facial expressions. Owing to the specific character of postnatal depressive mood, the purpose of the present study was to examine whether postpartum depressive mood intensity in the mothers would involve the same disturbances as depression or a specific distortion in the emotional evaluation of baby faces as compared to adult faces. Three days after birth, the participants (N=79) completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Toronto Alexithymia Scale. They also evaluated the facial expressions of adults and babies displaying anger, happiness, sadness and neutrality in terms of the intensity of five emotions: Anger, disgust, sadness, happiness and neutrality. Our findings suggest that judgements of emotional facial expressions depend to a great extent on anxiety, which specifically increased negative perception of babies' emotions. Moreover, the only difference between mothers with and without postpartum depressive mood lays in their assessment of the babies' faces, neutral baby faces being judged to be less neutral, thus demonstrating the specificity of postpartum affective disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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