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Infant Behav Dev. 2013 Dec;36(4):599-608. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2013.06.003. Epub 2013 Jul 10.

The impact of parents' mental health on parent-baby interaction: a prospective study.

Author information

1
School of Psychology, University of Sussex, UK. Electronic address: ylva.parfitt@btopenworld.com.

Abstract

The aims of the current study were to examine the effect of fathers' and mothers' pre and postnatal mental health on mother-infant and father-infant interactions. Mental health was broadly defined to include anxiety, depression and PTSD. A community sample of 44 mothers and 40 fathers from 45 families completed questionnaire measures of mental health in late pregnancy and three months postpartum. Mother-infant and father-infant interactions were observed and videoed three months postpartum and analysed using the CARE-index. Results showed that prenatal mental health, in particular anxiety, was associated with parent-infant interactions to a greater extent than postnatal mental health. Fathers' prenatal symptoms were associated with higher paternal unresponsiveness and infant passivity whilst fathers' postnatal symptoms were associated with higher levels of infant difficulty in the father-baby interaction. The results also indicated that mothers and fathers interaction with their babies were similar, both on average and within the couples, with 34% being inept or at risk. These findings highlight the need for early detection and prevention of both mental health and parent-infant relationship problems in fathers as well as mothers. However, further prospective and longitudinal studies are needed to understand the influences of parental mental health on the parent-infant interactions further. Also it should be noted that the mental health scores were low in this sample, which may reflect the sample characteristics. Future studies therefore would benefit from focusing on more vulnerable groups of parents.

KEYWORDS:

Child birth; Father; Infant; Interaction; Mental health; Mother

PMID:
23850989
DOI:
10.1016/j.infbeh.2013.06.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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