Maternal depression, dimensions of maternal parenting, and infant self-regulation in a non-clinical population

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The purpose of the present study was to investigate relationships between maternal depression, dimensions of observed parenting, and self-regulation in 3- to 4-month old infants. Due to the limited range of depression in the present sample no relationships were found between maternal depression and infant self-regulation or observed dimensions of parenting. Infant self-regulation was assessed within the still-face paradigm, which simulates the unavailability and noncontingent responsivity associated with maternal depression. Maternal parenting and infant affectivity were also assessed in two 5- minute play sessions prior to and immediately following the still-face situation. Several important findings with regard to individual and gender differences in patterns of response to the still-face situation and the role of maternal behaviors in facilitating early self-regulatory capacities are presented. First, infants’ early responses to the still-face situation, in terms of gaze and affective behavior, were predictive of later organizational responses. Second, there was some stability across situations, as infants who initially displayed negative affect in play with their mothers were much more likely to evidence negative affect during the still-face situation and in the recovery play interaction. Finally, gender differences in infant response to the still-face paradigm emerged: girls disorganized more often there was a trend toward boys showing more positive affect. Furthermore, maternal positivity was correlated with self-regulation during the still-face for infant girls but not for infant boys. These findings are discussed in relation to the Mutual Regulation Model (Tronick & Gianino, 1986) and theories of gender differences in emotional development.

Infant psychology, Mother and child, Depressed persons--Family relationships, Mothers--Mental health