University of Sussex
Parfitt,_Ylva_Margareta.pdf (3.82 MB)

The transition to parenthood: a prospective study of parental mental health, family relationships and infant development

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posted on 2023-06-08, 16:59 authored by Ylva Margareta Parfitt
The transition to parenthood involves psychological and social adjustments for men and women, with evidence of possible declines in mental health and close relationships. This thesis examined the relationship between parents’ mental health (depression, anxiety, PTSD), the parent-infant relationship, couple’s relationship and infant development. The five articles in this thesis were part of a prospective multi-method investigation of first-time parents. Parents completed questionnaires in late pregnancy, 3 months and 15 months postpartum (Article 3 & 4), detailed observations of parent-infant interactions 3 months postpartum (CARE-index; Article 4), in-depth interviews (Birmingham Interview of Maternal Mental Health) 5 months postpartum (Article 1 and 2), and infant development (Bayley Scales III) was examined at 17 months postpartum (Article 5). Results showed that a proportion of men and women suffered from poor mental health. Mental health problems were more common in pregnancy than postpartum. Women experienced worse mental health than men, but few other gender or within couple differences were found (Articles 2 & 3). A relatively high rate of poor parent-infant interactions was found (Article 4) and many parents reported feelings of anger towards their infant (Articles 1 & 2). Parents’ perceptions of their infant’s characteristics were important for the parent-infant relationship (Article 3) and infant’s cognitive, language and motor development (Article 5). Additionally, women’s postpartum PTSD and prenatal depression were associated with poor infant development (Article 5). Men’s mental health was associated with poor interaction with their infants (Article 4), negative perceptions of the father-infant and couple’s relationship (Article 3). These findings suggest that both men and women should be included in early mental health and family relationship interventions. However, the small low-risk sample limits generalizability of results. Future research would benefit from exploring the links between parental, infant and family relationship variables further, over time in larger more representative samples.


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University of Sussex

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