Postnatal depression, anxiety and unsettled infant behaviour

C. McMahon, B. Barnett, N. Kowalenko, C. Tennant, N. Don

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This study compares maternal mood, marital satisfaction and infant temperament in 128 mothers admitted to the residential care unit of a parentcraft hospital and 58 mothers in a demographically matched group. Method: Mothers were recruited from the residential care unit of a parentcraft hospital (Tresillian Family Care Centres) and a comparison group from a private obstetric practice in the same demographic area. Both groups completed self-report questionnaires on depression, anxiety and marital adjustment, while mothers in the residential care group also received a structured diagnostic interview for depression (CIDI). Results: Sixty-two per cent of mothers in the residential care group met diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode occurring since childbirth and a further 13% met DSM-IV research criteria for minor depression. The residential care group also scored significantly higher on both state and trait anxiety and rated their infants as significantly more temperamentally difficult than did the comparison group. Conclusions: This study replicates a previous Australian finding of a high incidence of maternal mood disorders in mothers admitted to parentcraft hospitals. Acknowledgement of the close association between maternal mood state and unsettled infant behaviour facilitates an integrated multidisciplinary approach offering appropriate management for both mothers and infants. Residential care units may be ideally suited to provide such early intervention strategies in a non-stigmatizing environment, but provision of adequate staff support, mental health consultation, education and skills in managing mental health problems in these settings is important.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-588
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Temperament
  • Unsettled infants


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