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Am J Perinatol. 2017 Jul;34(8):808-817. doi: 10.1055/s-0037-1599052. Epub 2017 Feb 17.

Maternal Bonding through Pregnancy and Postnatal: Findings from an Australian Longitudinal Study.

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National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Faculty of Health, School of Psychology, Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia.
Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Population Studies of Adolescents, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Department of Paediatrics and Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Western Australia, Australia.
Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, The University of Sydney, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, New South Wales, Australia.


Background Mother-infant bonding provides the foundation for secure attachment through the lifespan and organizes many facets of infant social-emotional development, including later parenting. Aims To describe maternal bonding to offspring across the pregnancy and postnatal periods, and to examine a broad range of sociodemographic and psychosocial predictors of the maternal-offspring bond. Methods Data were drawn from a sample of 372 pregnant women participating in an Australian population-based longitudinal study of postnatal health and development. Participants completed maternal bonding questionnaires at each trimester and 8 weeks postnatal. Data were collected on a range of sociodemographic and psychosocial factors. Results Bonding increased significantly through pregnancy, in quality and intensity. Regression analyses indicated that stronger antenatal bonding at all time points (trimesters 1 through 3) predicted stronger postnatal bonding. Older maternal age, birth mother being born in a non-English speaking country, mother not working full time, being a first-time mother, breast-feeding problems, and baby's crying behavior all predicted poorer bonding at 8 weeks postpartum. Conclusion These novel findings have important implications for pregnant women and their infant offspring, and for health care professionals working in perinatal services. Importantly, interventions to strengthen maternal-fetal bonding would be beneficial during pregnancy to enhance postnatal bonding and infant health outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Conflict of interest statement

Funding: The research was funded by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant #GNT630517 to Richard P Mattick, Delyse Hutchinson, Steve Allsop, Jake Najman, Elizabeth Elliott, Lucy Burns, Sue Jacobs, Craig Olsson and Anne Bartu, and was financially supported by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), University of New South Wales (UNSW). NDARC and the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), Curtin University of Technology are funded by the Australian Government under the Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvements Grants Fund. The authors also acknowledge financial support from Australian Rotary Health, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, and the Financial Markets Foundation for Children (Australia). Richard P. Mattick is financially supported by an NHMRC Principal Research Fellowship Award from the NHMRC, and Delyse Hutchinson is financially supported by an Australian Unity Industry Partner Senior Research Fellowship. Craig Olsson is supported by an Australian Research Council Senior Research Fellowship (DORA: DP 130101459). Elizabeth Elliott is supported by an NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship #1021480.

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