The Effect of Maternal Depression on Infant Attachment: A Systematic Review
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Aims and objectives: The aim of this systematic review was to summarize the key findings of empirical studies assessing the influence of maternal depression on child attachment security measured before 24 months after birth. Method: The study followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement guidelines. A literature search was conducted on the EBSCO (Academic Search Complete; Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition; MEDLINE; PsycARTICLES) and PubMed databases, with infant attachment AND depression as search terms with Boolean operators. Study design or sample size did not affect inclusion. After screening, 29 of the 1510 unique publications originally identified were included in the review. Results: The studies reveal an equivocal association between maternal depression and child attachment security. Our findings indicate that depression had a significant influence on the attachment style almost only when diagnosed by structured interview: Depression measured by self-descriptive questionnaires was unrelated to attachment style. Furthermore, postpartum depression was found to be significant only when measured up to six months after childbirth. Conclusion: The relationship between maternal depression and infant attachment is both complex and dynamic, and the possible negative effects of depression might be compensated by maternal involvement in childcare. Therefore, further studies in this area should employ a reliable methodology for diagnosing depression and a suitable time point for measuring it; they should also adopt a multifactorial and prospective approach. It is important to note that breastfeeding/formula feeding was omitted as a factor in the majority of studies.
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