Determinants of maternal fetal attachment in women from a community-based sample

A.J.B.M. Maas, C.M.J.M. Vreeswijk, J. Braeken, A.J.J.M. Vingerhoets, H.J.A. van Bakel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)



Maternal fetal attachment (MFA) has been found to be an important predictor for the developing relationship between mother and child. During the last decades, research on determinants of MFA has yielded inconclusive and even contradictory results. Until now, a process model in which multiple determinants of MFA are studied concurrently has been lacking. The present study evaluates a process model (based on Belsky’s model of parenting) in which the specific contributions of parental, contextual, and expected child characteristics to MFA were examined.


Participants, 351 pregnant women from a community-based sample, completed questionnaires concerning their personality, attachment security, partner support, perceived stress, expected child temperament, and MFA at 26 weeks gestational age. Based on Belsky’s model, a set of competing structural equation models were formulated and evaluated with path analysis.


MFA was found to be multiply determined by parental, contextual, and expected child characteristics. These factors explained 19% of the variance in MFA. Pregnant women who were more extrovert, conscientious and agreeable reported having higher levels of MFA. In contrast, those women who perceived more stress and expected having an infant with a dull temperament reported lower levels of MFA.


This study demonstrated that the theoretical framework of Belsky’s model is applicable for explaining variations in the quality of the mother–fetus relationship in the pregnancy period. More knowledge of the determinants of MFA could help to identify mothers at risk for developing suboptimal feelings of attachment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-24
JournalJournal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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