Associations Between Maternal Pre and Postnatal Stress and Anxiety, Maternal Behavior, and Infant Cognitive Outcomes at 3-6 Months

Emerging evidence suggests maternal pre and postnatal stress and anxiety may influence maternal behavior and infant cognitive outcomes. The current study examined whether 1) maternal pre and postnatal stress and anxiety were associated with specific aspects of maternal behavior and 2) whether maternal mood and behavior were associated with infant cognitive outcomes. We hypothesized that higher maternal stress and anxiety would be associated with lower maternal sensitivity and higher intrusiveness and detachment. Additionally, we hypothesized that higher maternal stress and anxiety and less optimal maternal behavior would be associated with lower infant cognitive scores. Participants were 58 mother-infant dyads from a prospective, longitudinal study. Mothers reported their stress and anxiety levels at five prenatal visits and one visit at 3-6 months postpartum using validated questionnaires. At the postpartum visit, mother-infant dyads completed a ten minute freeplay activity, which was later coded for maternal behaviors. Infant cognitive development was assessed with the Mullen Scales of Early Learning. Maternal prenatal stress and anxiety were associated with lower sensitivity (rs = -.27, p = .04 and rs = -.24, p = .07) and higher intrusiveness (rs = .29, p = .03 and rs = .30, p = .02). Maternal postnatal stress and anxiety were not associated with maternal behaviors. Final analyses will include associations with infant cognitive outcomes. This study is novel in that it examined links between maternal stress and anxiety and specific components of maternal behavior. Further research could replicate these findings in a larger sample and examine if maternal mood and behavior predict developmental outcomes beyond infancy.

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