Maternal attachment state of mind moderates the impact of postnatal depression on infant attachment

Catherine A. McMahon*, Byranne Barnett, Nicholas M. Kowalenko, Christopher C. Tennant

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    138 Citations (Scopus)


    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 ins ecure 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 ar e discussed with reference to resiliency factors for women with postnatal depression and implications for intervention.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)660-669
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006


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