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Depression, mothers, meta-analysis and attachment

Research shows that it appears to be an association between maternal depression and infant insecure attachment.

Di Jeffrey Pella

Pubblicato il 29 Giu. 2012

Aggiornato il 20 Set. 2012 14:04

– Attachment Series by Jeffrey Pella – 

– Read Part 1 – 

Depression, mothers, meta-analysis and attachment. - Immagine: © forestpath - Fotolia.comAs stated in the previous installment in this attachment series, it is theorized that insecure attachment can develop as a result of mixed or negative parenting signals during mother-child interactions (e.g. unreliable, rejecting). These parenting styles have also been associated with maternal psychopathology of various types of maternal psychopathology have been investigated as possible predictors of insecure infant attachment style.

Maternal depression has been linked to unresponsive and rejecting parenting. Therefore, maternal depression has been examined as a possible predictor of insecure infant attachment (Belsky & Jaffee, 2006). Two meta-analyses were conducted examining this relationship.  Meta-analysis is method that focuses on combining and contrasting the results of multiple studies.  The main goal of a meta-analysis is to identify patterns and disagreements in results.  These types of studies can provide statistically powerful insight, especially when a large number of studies are examined. 

Parents' words and anxiety disorders
Recommended: Parents’ words and Anxiety Disorders.

Martins and Gaffan (2000) compared the attachment styles of infants of healthy mothers to those of clinically depressed mothers in seven studies. The results, excluding one outlier, showed that there were higher levels of insecure attachment in infants of depressed mothers compared to those of healthy control mothers. Within the depressed samples, disorganized and avoidant attachment was more common than resistant attachment.

Atkinson et al. (2000) conducted a larger meta-analysis of 15 studies examining the attachment outcomes of infants of clinically depressed and healthy control mothers. Again, the infants of the clinically depressed sample had higher levels of insecure attachment compared to the infants of healthy controls.

Based on these meta-analyses, which combined to examine 22 studies, there appears to be an association between maternal depression and infant insecure attachment. Specifically, disorganized and avoidant attachment styles appear to be the most common among infants of depressed mothers. In the next installment I will shift my focus to mother-child attachment in the context of maternal anxiety.




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Jeffrey Pella
Jeffrey Pella

DOCTOR OF PSYCHOLOGY PhD in Psychology, University of Reading

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