University of Cambridge | June 2018 | Mother’s attitude towards baby during pregnancy may have implications for child’s development
A meta-analysis which used data from 14 studies to explore if there was a relationship between the way parents think about their child during pregnancy and their behaviour towards them after birth.
The research team from the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge considered parents’ attitudes and feelings about their unborn child analysing the qualitative data from previous studies which included interviews and questionnaires.
Studies included in the meta-analysis examined parents’ thoughts and feelings about their child during pregnancy through interviews and questionnaires, and researchers also reviewed their attitudes and emotions in the postnatal period.
If the parents to be demonstrated positive anticipation of their relationship with the child and viewed them as an individual the researchers determined them to have a ‘balanced’ representation of their child. By contrast parents considered to have a ‘distorted’ view for instance would have an idealised description of their child much narrower in scope. In the studies included in this research, researchers had observed interactions and child observing their ‘sensitivity’ towards their child responding appropriately to the baby, for example recognising their distress
After combining the results from all 14 studies, the team identified a modest association between positive thoughts and feelings about the infant during pregnancy and later interaction with the infant, but only in mothers.
“Studies have shown that parent-child interaction is crucial for a child’s development and learning, so we wanted to understand if there were prenatal signs that might predict a parent’s behaviour,” says Dr Sarah Foley, the study’s first author.
“Although we found a relationship between a mother’s attitude towards her baby during pregnancy and her later interactions, this link was only modest. This suggests it is likely to be a part of the jigsaw, rather than the whole story” (via University of Cambridge).
The study has now been published in the Development Review
Drawing on data gathered from 14 studies involving a total of 1862 mothers and fathers, this meta-analysis reviews the measures that are used to tap into thoughts and feelings about the unborn infant during pregnancy and examines links between these prenatal measures and parent-child interaction quality. Questionnaire scores for parental-fetal attachment and interview ratings of expectant parents’ representations of their infant showed modest but robust associations with observed parent-child interaction quality. Moderator analyses showed that these associations were significantly stronger for mothers than for fathers. Key lessons for future research include the need for greater consistency in study measures, sample diversity and the examination of associations with child outcomes.
Foley, S and Hughes, C. | Great expectations? Do mothers’ and fathers’ prenatal thoughts and feelings about the infant predict parent-infant interaction quality? |A meta-analytic review| Developmental Review| June 2018 | DOI: 10.1016/j.dr.2018.03.007
Rotherham NHS staff can request the article here