A longitudinal study on the maternal–fetal relationship and postnatal maternal sensitivity

A.J.B.M. Maas, E.S.A. de Cock, C.M.J.M. Vreeswijk, A.J.J.M. Vingerhoets, H.J.A. van Bakel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective:
The present study examined whether early signs of maternal sensitivity can be detected during pregnancy by focusing on the maternal–fetal relationship and postnatal maternal sensitivity.
Background:
Earlier research has identified maternal sensitive behaviour as an important factor for the quality of the mother–infant relationship and the child’s emotional and cognitive development later in life. Research on this topic has predominantly focused on the postnatal period and little is known about early predictors (i.e. during pregnancy) of maternal sensitivity.
Methods:
Participants were 273 women and their (unborn) infants. Mothers’ attitudes, thoughts and feelings towards the fetus were assessed by the Maternal Antenatal Attachment Scale at 26 weeks of gestation. At the infant’s age of 6 months, maternal sensitivity was assessed in three different situations (i.e. face-to-face play, caregiving and free play) using the NICHD global rating scales.
Results:
Mothers with a higher quality of the maternal–fetal relationship displayed more maternal sensitivity towards their 6-month-old infant in caregiving and free play situations, even when controlling for covariates such as parity, ethnicity, maternal education, maternal age and the postnatal mother–infant relationship. No associations were found in the face-to-face situation.
Conclusion:
This study shows that mothers who reported a higher quality of the maternal–fetal relationship were more sensitive while interacting with their infants during caregiving and free play, but not during face-to-face play.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-121
JournalJournal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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