Maternal postpartum behavior and the emergence of infant-mother and infant-father synchrony in preterm and full-term infants: The role of neonatal vagal tone

Ruth Feldman, Arthur I. Eidelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

270 Scopus citations

Abstract

Relations between maternal postpartum behavior and the emergence of parent-infant relatedness as a function of infant autonomic maturity were examined in 56 premature infants (birthweight = 1000-1500 g) and 52 full-term infants. Maternal behavior, mother depressive symptoms, and infant cardiac vagal tone were assessed in the neonatal period. Infant-mother and infant-father synchrony, maternal and paternal affectionate touch, and the home environment were observed at 3 months. Premature birth was associated with higher maternal depression, less maternal behaviors, decreased infant alertness, and lower coordination of maternal behavior with infant alertness in the neonatal period. At 3 months, interactions between premature infants with their mothers and fathers were less synchronous. Interaction effects of premature birth and autonomic maturity indicated that preterm infants with low vagal tone received the lowest amounts of maternal behavior in the postpartum and the least maternal touch at 3 months. Infant-mother and infant-father synchrony were each predicted by cardiac vagal tone and maternal postpartum behavior in both the preterm and full-term groups. Among preterm infants, additional predictors of parent-infant synchrony were maternal depression (mother only) and the home environment (mother and father). Findings are consistent with evolutionary perspectives on the higher susceptibility of dysregulated infants to rearing contexts and underscore the compensatory mechanisms required for social-emotional growth under risk conditions for parent-infant bonding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-302
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Volume49
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2007

Keywords

  • Bonding
  • Cardiac vagal tone
  • Fathering
  • HOME
  • Maternal behavior
  • Mothering
  • Postpartum depression
  • Synchrony
  • Touch

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