Maternal-fetal bonding among pregnant women at psychosocial risk: The roles of adult attachment style, prenatal parental reflective functioning, and depressive symptoms

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Pregnancy offers a unique period for initiating preventive parenting interventions. Disturbances in maternal-fetal bonding may indicate suboptimal parenting and a need for intervention. However, more knowledge is needed on the development of maternal-fetal bonding among at-risk groups. The study aim was to examine psychosocial correlates of maternal-fetal bonding among pregnant women identified to be at risk socially and regarding their mental health. The sample consisted of 78 at-risk pregnant women participating in a perinatal intervention study: Godt på Vej Sammen [A Good Start to Life-an Early Cross-sectorial Intervention]. This study was cross-sectional reporting on the baseline characteristics of the participants. In the beginning of the second trimester, participants completed questionnaires assessing maternal-fetal bonding (the Maternal Antenatal Attachment Scale [MAAS]), prenatal parental reflective functioning, adult attachment style, and depressive symptoms. We compared the distribution of MAAS styles with norms from a recent Dutch community sample. In addition, we tested associations between psychosocial variables and the quality and intensity of MAAS scores in regression models and performed Chi-square analyses to assess the association of MAAS styles with psychosocial variables. First, compared to women from a community sample, approximately half of the women in our sample presented lower and suboptimal MAAS scores. Second, insecure avoidant adult attachment style was negatively associated with MAAS intensity, and depressive symptoms were negatively associated with MAAS quality. Third, prenatal parental reflective functioning positively correlated with both quality and intensity of MAAS. Fourth, we found no association between insecure anxious adult attachment style and MAAS scores. Fifth, women with a negative disinterested MAAS style demonstrated the highest avoidant attachment scores, while women with a positively preoccupied MAAS style demonstrated the highest prenatal parental reflective functioning scores. The results suggest that there is a need to differentiate among at-risk pregnant woman and that prenatal screening using the MAAS may help identify those who need preventive parenting interventions and what those interventions should focus on. A main limitation of the study is the lack of a representative group of at-risk pregnant women which limits the generalizability of the study results to all risk groups.

TidsskriftPLoS ONE
Udgave nummer9
StatusUdgivet - 2020

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