Background: Postnatal Depression has demonstrated long-term consequences on child cognitive and emotional development, however, the link between maternal and child pathology has not been clearly identified.
Objective: This study examined whether maternal bonding to the infant and young child is impaired by maternal depressive symptoms.
Methods: 101 mothers of newborn infants were recruited from local obstetric units and examined for psychopathology using Symptom Checklist, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and the Postpartum Bonding Questionnaire at two weeks, six weeks, four months and fourteen months postpartum.
Results: Maternal depressive symptoms at 2 weeks, 6 weeks and four months postnatally but not at fourteen months of infant's age were found to be strongly associated with lower quality of maternal bonding to the infant and child from two weeks until fourteen months of postnatal age. Even mild and unrecognized maternal depressive symptoms had a significant impact on maternal bonding, if they occurred during the first four months of life.
Conclusions: This gives reason for increased concern for mother-infant dyads in the first few months after birth that could be regarded as a highly sensitive period for the development of the mother-child relationship. The findings warrant further studies and inspire the development of preventive programs focussing on infant and early childhood mental health by emphasizing protection and support during the first critical months.