An Exploratory Study of the Relationship between Mother-Infant Interaction and Maternal Cognitive Function in Mothers with Mental Illness

This source preferred by Andrew Mayers

Authors: Steadman, J., Pawlby, S., Mayers, A.G., Bucks, R., Miele Norton, M., Gregoire, A. and Hogan, A.M.

Journal: Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology

Volume: 25

Pages: 255-269

ISSN: 0264-6838

DOI: 10.1080/02646830701691343

There is evidence for a deleterious effect of maternal mental illness on mother-infant interaction. Presence of mental illness and lowered maternal cognitive function independently predict quality of interaction, but the extent to which their combined effect results in poorer interaction is unclear. To explore the relationship between maternal mental illness, cognitive function, and mother-infant interaction, we recruited 6 mothers with serious mental illness (SMI: schizophrenia or depression), and 12 with no psychiatric history for a pilot study. All had an infant aged between 5 and 18 weeks. Mother-infant interaction was assessed using the Crittenden Care Index. The Cognitive Drug Research computerised assessment battery provided measures of memory and attention. In support of previous literature, mothers in the SMI group were significantly less sensitive during interactions with their infants. They also demonstrated impairment relative to controls on an index of speed of memory processing. A hierarchical regression model revealed that presence of maternal mental illness was a significant predictor of maternal sensitivity to their infant but, when speed of memory processing was accounted for, the strength of this relationship was reduced. This suggests that the relationship between maternal mental illness and mother-infant interaction may be partially mediated by level of cognitive function. Further study is warranted.

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