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The association between maternal perinatal depression and socio-emotional outcomes in children: Examining the moderating role of mother-child attachment

Tan, Kang Ning (2020) The association between maternal perinatal depression and socio-emotional outcomes in children: Examining the moderating role of mother-child attachment. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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Despite well-established links between maternal postnatal depression (PND) and the development of internalizing and externalizing symptoms in childhood, findings in literature investigating maternal antenatal depression (AND) and child outcomes have been conflicting. Hence, there appears utility in examining potential moderators of this relationship. Over the years, child-to-mother attachment styles assessed through behavioural observations has received greater prominence as a factor associated with maternal depression and child outcomes. However, less attention has been devoted to assessing attachment through a mother’s subjective experiences towards her child, particularly during the antenatal period. The current study aimed to investigate whether mother-to-child attachment across the perinatal period moderates the effect of maternal perinatal depression on child internalizing and externalizing symptoms. 290 maternal participants with and without depression were recruited as part of the Mercy Pregnancy and Emotional Well-being Study (MPEWS) study. Maternal exposure to depression and mother-child attachment were measured during the antenatal (i.e., first and third trimesters of pregnancy) and postnatal (i.e., 6, 12 and 48 months postpartum) periods. Maternal reports of child socio-emotional outcomes of internalizing and externalizing symptoms at approximately four years old were also obtained. Hierarchical regression analysis was conducted to investigate potential moderation effects of attachment. Results revealed that only postnatal maternal-infant attachment moderated the relationship between PND and internalizing symptoms. Additionally, both antenatal and postnatal attachment did not significantly moderate the relationship between AND and externalizing symptoms. This study yields findings that enhance current understanding of the impacts of antenatal factors on children’s socio-emotional outcomes, as well as the potential moderation role of mother-child attachment in the relationship between maternal depression and child outcomes.

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
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Lewis, Andrew
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