Maternal anxiety, mother-infant interactions, and infants' response to challenge

Infant Behav Dev. 2010 Apr;33(2):136-48. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2009.12.003. Epub 2010 Feb 8.


Children of anxious mothers are at risk for social-emotional difficulties and disturbed, early interactions with their mother may account for some of the risk. This study evaluated the association between maternal anxiety, features of mother-infant interactions, and infants' emotion regulation during stressful situations (still-face, play with a stranger). Thirty-four anxiety-disordered mothers of 6-month-old infants and 59 typical dyads comprised the sample. Dyads were filmed during free play, teaching, care giving, and face-to-face play; and monadic (e.g., maternal sensitivity, infant affect) and dyadic measures (e.g., synchrony) were derived by global or time-event coding of the films. Results indicate that, compared to controls, more anxious mothers showed exaggerated behavior with their infant during free play and teaching, and infants of anxious mothers were less likely to show negative affect during the still-face and stranger challenges. We conclude that anxious maternal behavior reflects the hyperarousal that is characteristic of most anxiety disorders; and infants of anxious mothers and controls show differences in the manner in which they cope with social challenges.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior*
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers
  • Stress, Psychological*