Parents' prenatal joint attachment representations and early caregiving: the indirect role of prenatal marital affect

Attach Hum Dev. 2019 Dec;21(6):597-615. doi: 10.1080/14616734.2018.1492003. Epub 2018 Jul 4.


This research examined couples' marital affect as a mediator between the couples' combined attachment representations (assessed prenatally) and each of their caregiving quality at 8 months postpartum. We followed 125 couples pregnant with their first child over the transition to parenthood. Prenatally, the Adult Attachment Interview was administered and marital interactions were observed. Parents were categorized in joint attachment pairs: secure/secure, secure mother/insecure father, secure father/insecure mother, and insecure/insecure. Caregiving in dyadic parent-infant interactions was observed at home, 8 months postpartum. Results indicated the secure/secure pairing displayed the most positive marital affect overall and predicted higher sensitivity in both mothers and fathers compared to parents in secure mother/insecure father pairs. Indirect effects indicate marital affect mediated the relations between joint attachment pairs and caregiving. Findings suggest that joint attachment pairs relate to prenatal marital quality, which in turn spills over to predict each parent's later caregiving quality.

Keywords: Attachment; hostility; infancy; joint attachment; sensitivity; transition to parenthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Object Attachment*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Video Recording
  • Young Adult