Response to Infant Cry in Clinically Depressed and Non-Depressed Mothers
Bornstein, Marc H.
Date of Issue2017
College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Background: Bowlby and Ainsworth hypothesized that maternal responsiveness is displayed in the context of infant distress. Depressed mothers are less responsive to infant distress vocalizations (cry) than non-depressed mothers. The present study focuses on acoustical components of infant cry that give rise to responsive caregiving in clinically depressed (n = 30) compared with non-depressed mothers (n = 30) in the natural setting of the home. Methods: Analyses of infant and mother behaviors followed three paths: (1) tests of group differences in acoustic characteristics of infant cry, (2) tests of group differences of mothers’ behaviors during their infant’s crying, and (3) tree-based modeling to ascertain which variable(s) best predict maternal behaviors during infant cry. Results: (1) Infants of depressed mothers cried as frequently and for equal durations as infants of non-depressed mothers; however, infants of depressed mothers cried with a higher fundamental frequency (f0) and in a more restricted range of f0. (2) Depressed mothers fed, rocked, and touched their crying infants less than non-depressed mothers, and depressed mothers were less responsive to their infants overall. (3) Novel tree-based analyses confirmed that depressed mothers engaged in less caregiving during their infants’ cry and indicated that depressed mothers responded only to cries at higher f0s and shorter durations. Older non-depressed mothers were the most interactive with infants. Conclusions: Clinical depression affects maternal responsiveness during infant cry, leading to patterns of action that appear poorly attuned to infant needs.
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