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Child Dev. 1990 Feb;61(1):85-98.

Infants at social risk: maternal depression and family support services as mediators of infant development and security of attachment.

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Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge Hospital, MA 02139.


31 infants at high social risk due to the combined effects of poverty, maternal depression, and caretaking inadequacy were assigned to weekly home-visiting services. At 18 months infant age, the home-visited infants were compared with 2 groups of socioeconomically similar unserved infants on measures of infant development, infant attachment, mother-infant interaction, maternal depression, and maternal social contacts. Home-visited infants of depressed mothers outperformed unserved infants of depressed mothers by an average of 10 points on the Bayley Mental Scale and were twice as likely to be classified as securely attached, with unserved high-risk infants showing a high rate of insecure-disorganized attachments. Duration of services was positively correlated with maternal involvement at 12 months. Results of the study point both to the negative developmental consequences associated with severe social risk conditions and to the buffering effects of developmentally oriented home-visiting services for infants at greatest social risk.

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