Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

Fetal Attachment and Depression: Measurement Matters

Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

Fetal Attachment and Depression: Measurement Matters

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between Fetal Attachment (FA) and depression. Condon and Corkindale (1997) have found a relationship between the quality of FA and depression, in women, using the Antenatal Attachment Inventory (AAI; Condon, 1993) to measure FA and four different instruments to measure depression. Previous studies have failed to find a consistent relationship between FA and depression when employing the Fetal Attachment Scale (FAS; Cranley, 1981) to measure FA. In a critical review of the FA research, Muller (1992) proposed that inconsistencies were possibly artifacts of the FAS. This study is both a replication and an elaboration of Condon and Corkindale's study. Several modifications were made to the procedures employed by Condon. This study used both the FAS and the AAI to measure FA, to illuminate whether they would perform equally in explicating the relationship between FA and depression. In addition, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies in Depression Scale (CES-D; Rodloff, 1977) was used to measure depression to determine if Condon and Corkindale's results would be upheld with a fifth measure of depression. Other modifications included: testing males to determine any sex differences and comparing persons with and without a history of major depression. There were 68 expecting adults in the study (35 females and 33 male partners).

Results from this study, demonstrated that it does matter how FA is measured. As expected, the FAS did not correlate with the CES-D and, as Condon and Corkindale found, the AAI-Quality subscale did. For women, there was a significant inverse relationship between FA-Quality and depression (r = -.62, p < .01) and there was no association between FA-Intensity (i.e., the amount of time women spent engaging in FA behavior) and depression. Further analysis of the relationship between FA and depression was obtained by investigating results from the AAI data. Sex differences were detected; there were no significant associations between FA-Quality and depression for males. It was expected and confirmed that parents with a history of depression report greater depressive symptoms than parents without a history of major depression. Further exploration of the types of symptoms reported by individuals, with a history of major depression, revealed that women reported more somatic symptoms than men, but not more non-somatic symptoms. However, women, with a history of depression, reported more non-somatic symptoms of depression than women, without a history of major depression. Possible mechanisms that could account for the link between FA and depression are considered and the clinical importance of early detection and treatment of depression during pregnancy are discussed.

KEY WORDS: fetal attachment, pregnancy, depression, measurement, sex differences, risk factors.

INTRODUCTION

Developing an attachment for one's unborn child is considered an important milestone in the developmental trajectory of adults and families during the transition to parenthood. Fetal attachment (FA) characteristics (i.e., level, quality, and intensity) denote the historical beginnings of the social-emotional environment into which the parent-child attachment relationship will begin to take root and develop after birth. Research has demonstrated that fetal attachment is associated with a variety of parenting factors including, positive health behaviors during pregnancy (Lindgren, 2001), sensitive parenting behavior after birth (Bloom, 1995), and parenting role competence (Grace, 1989). The parent's representation of the child after birth may be influenced by the quality and level of fetal attachment that develops during pregnancy. Research has illuminated a range of individual differences in the timing, quality, and intensity of fetal attachment. For example, parents awaiting results regarding potential chromosomal damage to the fetus seem to postpone developing fetal attachment until after medical results are provided and then attachment increases (Caccia, Johnson, Robinson, & Barna, 1991; Rothman, 1993). …

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