Does Maternal Depression Have a Negative Effect on Parent-Child Attachment

Topics: Attachment theory, Major depressive disorder, Bipolar disorder Pages: 6 (1903 words) Published: December 3, 2010
Research has repeatedly shown that the parent-child attachment relationship has a significantly profound effect on the development of a child. Some believe that attachment is the single most important relationship that a young infant/toddler will engage in so early in their life. This relationship sets the framework for almost all degrees of development that a child goes through. The quality of attachment will determine one’s long term outcomes in so many areas. A major component in determining the quality and degree of attachment is the pathology of the mother.

In 1990, Gelfand & Teti described a mother’s depressed mood as being “less responsive, more helpless, hostile, critical, alternatively disregarded or intrusive, disorganized and less active, avoidant of confrontation, and generally less competent with their children.” Having a child has its fair share of complications and hardships. So many parents, especially mothers, find it extremely difficult to keep up with their parenting duties and too many times the importance of the child-parent relationship is overlooked. This paper looks at three articles that discuss the impact that maternal depression has on children, and how the attachment relationship is affected. Each study will be summarized. The paper will conclude with a discussion about parent-child attachment and how each article has answered the title question.

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The first article was written Teti et. al in 1995. Their focus was on attachment relationships between infant and preschool aged children and their depressed mothers. The authors looked at the attachment relationship in regards to the severity of the depression. There were two groups that were observed in this study. The first were depressed mothers in therapy at time of recruitment and the second were community matched non-depressed mothers, which was the control group.

The authors were determined to answer three hypotheses. They predicted that maternal depression would relate with the child’s sense of security, with a significantly higher percentage of insecure children having depressed mothers. Secondly, chronic and severe maternal impairment would be associated with disorganized attachment in infancy. Finally, more chronic and severe maternal depression would be linked to anxious depressed and insecure preschoolers.

One hundred and four families (61 depressed mothers, 43 nondepressed) were evaluated for this study. 95% of the participants were white, 44% Hispanic, and 1% African American. The mother’s age ranged from 18.5-45.4 years of age and the children ranged in age from 3-13 months. In this sample, the depressed mothers were seen to have lower educational levels, lower yearly income, and more likely to be a single parent.

In their discussion, Teti et al explained the following findings. Maternal depression is significantly associated with attachment security in both infant and preschool age groups. The severity and chronicity of the maternal depression must be looked at when analyzing maternal depression and attachment security in young children. Depression present in mothers leads to incoherent attachment relationships between that Stien 3

mother and her child. This also may lead to a high risk for psychopathology later on in life for the child.
There were some limitations that were found in this research. The sample was predominantly white. A large number of the sample was Mormons. These findings are not supportive of the various ethnic, cultural, religious backgrounds that are incorporated in our society today. The diagnoses of depression among the mothers were obtained from the therapists and were not independently checked. Finally, the results were exclusively correlational.

In 2006, McMahon et al devised a study that was aimed to explore whether a mother’s own state of mind regarding attachment influenced the relationship between postnatal depression and insecure mother-child attachment....
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