Background: Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common disease of childhood. It frequently starts in the first year of life. There is agreement on the existence of psychological influences on this disease. Although some studies in this field examine aspects of the parent-child relationship, studies concerning early infancy are very rare. The present study was conducted in order to find out whether maternal characteristics relevant to the mother-infant relationship, i.e. depressiveness/hopelessness, child-rearing attitudes and perceived infant behaviour, associated with infant AD.
Methods: Two cohorts (3- to 4-month- and 10- to 12-month-old infants), each with 20 infants suffering from AD, and 20 healthy infants were recruited. AD infants were further divided into subgroups according to the diagnostic criteria: atopic family history, itching and characteristic locations of eczema. After a paediatric examination of the infant, mothers completed standardized questionnaires concerning depressiveness/hopelessness, child-rearing attitudes and perception of infant behaviour.
Results: Varying with different diagnostic features of the infants' AD, mothers of AD infants described themselves as more depressive/hopeless, as more anxious/overprotective and characterized their infant as less frequently positive and more frequently negative in its emotional behaviour compared to the control group.
Conclusion: The results underline the importance of psychological support for mothers of infants with AD.