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Perinatal maternal mental health predicts early infant temperament: Findings from the Mercy Pregnancy and Wellbeing Study (MPEWS)

Trindall, Melissa (2019) Perinatal maternal mental health predicts early infant temperament: Findings from the Mercy Pregnancy and Wellbeing Study (MPEWS). Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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While there is a well-established relationship between maternal mental health and infant temperament, few studies have been able to differentiate the unique contribution of exposures occurring in pregnancy from those occurring postnatally. This study draws on data from a prospective longitudinal cohort study conducted in Melbourne, Australia. The Mercy Pregnancy and Emotional Wellbeing Study (MPEWS) is a cohort of 282 participants with measures of maternal depression and anxiety obtained in the first and third trimester, and 6 months postpartum using the EPDS and STAI. Mothers also assessed their infants at 6 months using the Short Temperament Scale for Infants. Regression analysis assessed the contribution of pre and postnatal maternal mental health on infant temperament outcomes indicative of difficulties in emotional and behavioural regulation while controlling for a number of covariates. Results showed withdrawn temperament was predicted by all pre and postnatal measures of maternal depression and anxiety. Postnatal depression symptoms were found to uniquely predict the presence of regulation difficulties and uncooperative temperament, while low birth weight was also identified as a risk factor for regulatory difficulties. Irritable infant temperament was predicted by both pre and postnatal depression and anxiety symptoms, with maternal education mediating this relationship. No associations were found between maternal mental health and reactive temperament, despite a significant negative relationship found with maternal education and income. These results may be attributed to both prenatal biological mechanisms including fetal programming and postnatal factors such as the rearing environment. Future research should aim to build on these findings using a multimethod approach to further understand the mechanisms involved in temperament development for the purpose of designing targeted interventions.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Psychology, Counselling, Exercise Science and Chiropractic
United Nations SDGs: Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
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Supervisor(s): UNSPECIFIED
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