Father's and mother's representations of the infant: Associations with prenatal risk factors

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Parents' representations of their infants consist of parents' subjective experiences of how they perceive their infants. They provide important information about the quality of the parent-infant relationship and are closely related to parenting behavior and infant attachment. Previous studies have shown that parents' representations emerge during pregnancy. However, little is known about prenatal (risk) factors that are related to parents' representations. In a prospective study, 308 mothers and 243 fathers were followed during pregnancy and postpartum. Prenatal risk factors were assessed with an adapted version of the Dunedin Family Services Indicator (T.G. Egan et al., ; R.C. Muir et al., ). At 26 weeks' gestation and 6 months' postpartum, parents' representations of their children were assessed with the Working Model of the Child Interview (C.H. Zeanah, D. Benoit, L. Hirshberg, M.L. Barton, & C. Regan). Results showed stability between pre- and postnatal representations, with fathers having more disengaged representations than did mothers. In addition, prenatal risk factors of parenting problems were associated with the quality of parents' prenatal (only in mothers) and postnatal representations. This study provides valuable information concerning parents at risk of developing nonbalanced representations of their children. In clinical practice, these families could be monitored more intensively and may be supported in developing a more optimal parent-infant relationship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599–612
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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