Maternal antenatal depression and infant disorganized attachment at 12 months

Lisa J. Hayes, Sherryl H. Goodman, Elizabeth Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Although high rates of attachment disorganization have been observed in infants of depressed mothers, little is known about the role of antenatal depression as a precursor to infant attachment disorganization. The primary aim of this study was to examine associations between maternal antenatal depression and infant disorganization at 12 months in a sample of women (N = 79) at risk for perinatal depression. A secondary aim was to test the roles of maternal postpartum depression and maternal parenting quality as potential moderators of this predicted association. Among women with histories of major depressive episodes, maternal depressive symptoms were assessed at multiple times during pregnancy and the first year postpartum, maternal parenting quality was measured at three months postpartum, and attachment disorganization was assessed at 12 months postpartum. Results revealed that infants classified as disorganized had mothers with higher levels of depressive symptoms during pregnancy compared to infants classified as organized. Maternal parenting quality moderated this association, as exposure to higher levels of maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy was only associated with higher rates of infant disorganized attachment when maternal parenting at three months was less optimal. These findings suggest that enhancing maternal parenting behaviors during this early period in development has the potential to alter pathways to disorganized attachment among infants exposed to antenatal maternal depressive symptoms, which could have enduring consequences for child wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-153
Number of pages21
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grant number 1P50MH58922-01A1.


  • disorganized attachment
  • maternal depression
  • parenting


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