Maternal and paternal infant representations: A comparison between parents of term and preterm infants

A. Tooten, R.A.S. Hall, H.N. Hoffenkamp, J. Braeken, A.J.J.M. Vingerhoets, A.M. van Bakel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Research on parental attachment representations after preterm birth is limited and inconclusive. The present study is the first in which maternal and paternal attachment representations after term, moderately and very preterm birth are compared. In addition, special attention was directed toward disrupted attachment representations.
Mothers and fathers of term infants (≥37 weeks of gestational age, n = 71), moderately preterm infants (≥32–37 weeks of gestational age, n = 62) and very preterm infants (<32 weeks of gestational age, n = 56) participated in the present study. Attachment representations (balanced, disengaged, distorted) about their infants were evaluated with the Working Model of the Child Interview (WMCI). To asses disrupted representations the coding of the WMCI was extended with the disrupted scale (WMCI-D).ResultsThe three main classifications of attachment representations were not affected by preterm birth. In addition, there were no gender differences in the rate of balanced representations. In case of non-balanced representations however, maternal representations were more often distorted, whereas fathers showed more often disengaged representations. Results further revealed that maternal disrupted attachment representations were marked by role/boundary confusion or disorientation, whereas paternal disrupted attachment representations were characterized by withdrawal.
Given the gender differences it is essential to tailor interventions according to the attachment representations of the parent, in order to be able to alter their non-balanced and/or disrupted attachment representations.Keywords: Preterm birth, Attachment representations, Disrupted attachment representations, Mothers, Fathers
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-379
JournalInfant Behavior and Development: An international and multidisciplinary journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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