Investigating attachment, caregiving, and mental health: a model of maternal-fetal relationships

Walsh, Judi, Hepper, E.G and Marshall, Benjamin (2014) Investigating attachment, caregiving, and mental health: a model of maternal-fetal relationships. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 14. ISSN 1471-2393

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Abstract

Background Maternal-fetal relationships have been associated with psychosocial outcomes for women and children, but there has been a lack of conceptual clarity about the nature of the maternal relationship with the unborn child, and inconsistent findings assessing its predictors. We proposed and tested a model whereby maternal-fetal relationship quality was predicted by factors relating to the quality of the couple relationship and psychological health. We hypothesized that the contribution of individual differences in romantic attachment shown in past research would be mediated by romantic caregiving responsiveness, as maternal-fetal relationships reflect the beginnings of the caregiving system. Methods 258 women in pregnancy (13, 23, and 33-weeks gestation) completed online measures of attachment to partner, caregiving responsiveness to partner, mental health, and thoughts about their unborn baby. Structural equation modeling was used to test a model of maternal-fetal relationships. Results Maternal-fetal relationship quality was higher for women at 23-weeks than 13-weeks gestation. Women in first pregnancies had higher self-reported scores of psychological functioning and quality of maternal-fetal relationships than women in subsequent pregnancies. Structural equation models indicated that the quality of the maternal-fetal relationship was best predicted by romantic caregiving responsiveness to partner and women's own psychological health, and that the association between adult romantic attachment avoidance and maternal-fetal relationships was fully mediated by caregiving responsiveness to partner, even after controlling for other factors. These data support the hypothesis that maternal-fetal relationships better reflect the operation of the caregiving system than the care-seeking (i.e., attachment) system. Conclusions Models of maternal-fetal relationships and interventions with couples should consider the role of caregiving styles of mothers to partners and the relationship between expectant parents alongside other known predictors, particularly psychological health.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2014 Walsh et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Uncontrolled Keywords: antenatal attachment,caregiving,pregnancy
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2015 20:40
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2020 23:43
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/53516
DOI: 10.1186/s12884-014-0383-1

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