Maternal trauma and emotional availability in early mother-infant interaction: findings from the Mercy Pregnancy and Emotional Well-being Study (MPEWS) cohort

Kelli K. MacMillan, Andrew J. Lewis, Stuart J. Watson, Brendan Jansen, Megan Galbally

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Understanding how a mother’s traumatic experiences influence her interactions with her infant may have importance for understanding infant development and mental health. Data for this study were drawn from an Australian pregnancy cohort, the Mercy Pregnancy and Emotional Wellbeing Study. Maternal trauma from Childhood, Childbirth Experiences, and Stressful Life Events were examined. At six-months postpartum, 211 predominantly first-time mothers (mean age 31.5 years), and their infants, were video-recorded interacting for 40 minutes. Interactions were assessed with the Emotional Availability (EA) Scales. Using structural equation modelling to test multiple mediation pathways, moderate-to-severe childhood trauma had only a direct effect on reducing maternal EA with the infant (β=−.17, p=.031), as did current stressful life events (β=−.19, p=.019), after controlling for maternal depression, age, and tertiary education. This highlights that proximate trauma specific to the perinatal period may not account for the effect of distal childhood trauma on maternal EA at six-months postpartum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalAttachment and Human Development
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2020

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