Associations of maternal postpartum depressive and anxiety symptoms with 4-month infant and mother self- and interactive contingency of gaze, affect, and touch

Dev Psychopathol. 2023 Oct 4:1-18. doi: 10.1017/S0954579423001190. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Maternal depression and anxiety are associated with infant and mother self- and interactive difficulties. Although maternal depression and anxiety usually co-occur, studies taking this comorbidity into account are few. Despite some literature, we lack a detailed understanding of how maternal depressive and anxiety symptoms may be associated with patterns of mother-infant interaction. We examined associations of maternal postpartum depressive and anxiety symptoms with infant and mother self- and interactive patterns by conducting multi-level time-series models in a sample of 56 Turkish mothers and their 4-month infants. Time-series models assessed the temporal dynamics of interaction via infant and mother self- and interactive contingency. Videotaped face-to-face interaction was coded on a 1s time base for infant and mother gaze and facial affect, infant vocal affect, and mother touch. Results indicated that mothers with high depressive symptoms were vulnerable to infants looking away, reacting with negative touch; their infants remained affectively midrange, metaphorically distancing themselves from mothers' affect. Mothers with high anxiety symptoms were vulnerable to infants becoming facially dampened and mothers reacted with negative facial affect. Altered infant and mother self-contingency patterns were largely opposite for maternal depressive and anxiety symptoms. These patterns describe foundational processes by which maternal postpartum mood is transmitted to the infant and which may affect infant development.

Keywords: Maternal postpartum anxiety symptoms; Maternal postpartum depressive symptoms; Microanalysis; Mother-infant face-to-face communication; Self- and interactive contingency; Temporal dynamics of interaction.