BackgroundThe quality of maternal-infant bonding is related to important child outcomes. The literature has assumed that the ability to form relationships is a relatively stable trait, and research studies have suggested that a mother’s attachment style in close adult relationships is related to mother-infant bonding. The transition to parenthood is also often stressful, and the adult attachment style may relate to parenting stress in the first year after birth. Such stress could possibly have a negative relationship with the mother-infant bond. In the present study, we examined the associations between maternal adult attachment styles and the quality of mother-infant bonding and whether this relationship is mediated by parenting stress.
MethodsThe present study sample comprised 168 women (mean age 31.0 years, SD 4.23 years). Between weeks 31 and 41 of gestation, the anxious and avoidant adult attachment dimensions were measured with the Experiences in Close Relationships questionnaire (ECR). Between 5 and 15 weeks after birth mother-infant bonding and parenting stress were measured with the Maternal Postnatal Attachment Scale (MPAS) and the Parenting Stress Index-Parent Domain (PSI-PD), respectively.
ResultsBoth attachment-related avoidance and attachment-related anxiety correlated significantly and negatively with mother-infant bonding. However, a regression analysis showed that only attachment-related avoidance was a significant predictor of mother-infant bonding when controlling for demographic variables and maternal mental health history. The relationship between the adult attachment style and bonding was mediated by parenting stress. Higher scores on attachment avoidance and anxiety were related to increased stress, which was related to decreased quality of bonding. The overall parent domain and the subscale of competence in the parent-related stress dimension mediated between attachment avoidance and bonding, and the overall parent domain and the subscales of competence and role restriction mediated between attachment anxiety and bonding. There was no direct relationship between the adult attachment style and mother-infant bonding when parenting stress was included as a mediator.
ConclusionsThis study illustrates that maternal adult attachment style relates to mother-infant bonding. This relationship was mediated by parenting stress. The results may have implications for the early identification of mothers at risk of having bonding difficulties.
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