Perinatal Clinical Psychology: Parent-Child Interaction in Primary Care

By Cena, Loredana; Imbasciati, Antonio | Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Perinatal Clinical Psychology: Parent-Child Interaction in Primary Care

Cena, Loredana, Imbasciati, Antonio, Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

Abstract: Perinatal clinical psychology deals with infant mental development, primary parent-child relationships, and problems related to nurturing and parenting activities of the woman and the couple during the prenatal and neonatal period. Its aims are promoting positive influences and preventing risk elements for the child's development and for the parents raising the child, thus providing support to primary relationships. Perinatal clinical psychology studies intra-psychic, interpersonal, and transgenerational mental processes. In this paper, we present a short synthesis of the origin and development over time of the main concepts that are used in perinatal clinical psychology interventions and research.

Keywords: primary relationships, emotional regulation, attachment theory, affect attunement, reflective function, affect regulation, Neuroscience, fetal mind, Protomental Theory.

Mother-Child Interactions In Primary Care: Convergence Of Research

Pre and perinatal psychiatric literature has produced research concerning mental illness in pregnancy and postpartum problems (depression, puerperal psychosis, psychiatric syndromes). Psychoanalytic and psychological literature specifically refer to the child's primary care, introducing the concept of "maternal care" and "maternal careless" (when care is inadequate, causing abnormal or pathological syndromes in children). This concept of "maternal care" has changed in different ways as theories have changed (Imbasciati, 2008). Over time we can find a convergence of the studies about maternal care and the influence on primary infant mental development (Imbasciati, Dabrassi, & Cena, 2007).

Psychoanalysis, in particular infant psychoanalysis, first with the research of Anna Freud (1949, 1957) by means of the children's observation method, and continuing with Melanie Klein's studies (1932) considering abnormal or pathological syndromes in children related to inadequate maternal care (maternal careless).

Ferenczi (1927, 1929, 1932) was the first psychoanalyst to focus on the emotional investment of parents in their children, shifting the attention from the psychological study of the individual to the influence of the relationship between individuals and, in particular, the therapeutic value of affective relationship.

Rene Spitz studied, through observation, abandoned and orphaned children (after WWII in particular) and emphasized that infants subjected to relationship deprivation fall into a pathological condition of psychological and physical disorder, which he called anaclytical depression (1946). Thanks to the studies of Spitz, an important series of research studies (which we will address in this paper) concerning primary mother-child interactions and maternal care deprivation began (1965).

In the United States, where many psychoanalysts from Vienna and Berlin lived (having emigrated prior to or during World War II), Ego Psychoanalytic Psychology developed (Hartman, 1939) and interest within psychology moved to ego adaptive processes related to the environment and the first phases of the child's development that characterize environment-ego interactions.

Kris (1950), through direct child observation, studied parent-child relationship problems, exploring the conflicts that the parents transmit to their child. He also identified a mechanism to explain the parents' transfer of their own infant experiences to their children. Later Fraiberg (Fraiberg, Adelsen, & Shapio, 1975) called this psychological process the parents' "ghosts" in the nursery.

Winnicott (1945) analyzed the quality of the first mother-child interactions and the emotional environment in which the child matures (1960) as the central element of the child's psychological development. Winnicott (1958) mainly set child psychoanalysis in developmental contexts. In addition, he developed his own theory about the observation of mother-child from childbirth.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Perinatal Clinical Psychology: Parent-Child Interaction in Primary Care


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?