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Department of Psychology

Staff

Publication details for Professor Charles Fernyhough

Pawlby, S., Fernyhough, C., Meins, E., Pariante, C. M., Seneviratne, G. & Bentall, R. P. (2010). Mind-mindedness and maternal responsiveness in infant–mother interactions in mothers with severe mental illness. Psychological Medicine 40(11): 1861-1869

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Background. Previous cross-diagnosis studies of interaction between mothers with severe mental illness and their babies have concluded that mothers with schizophrenia have deficits in interaction. These studies have failed to include healthy controls.
Method. In-patients on a Mother and Baby Unit, with diagnoses of schizophrenia (n=15), depressive mood disorders with or without psychosis (n=23), or mood disorders where mania was the predominant feature, with or without psychosis (n=12), were observed interacting with their infants on admission and discharge. Mothers’ mind-mindedness and other measures of the quality of maternal and infant behaviour were coded. Findings from this sample were compared with those from healthy mothers and their infants (n=49).
Results. Compared with healthy controls, on admission depressed mothers were marginally less likely to comment appropriately on their infants’ mental states, and both the depressed and mania groups were more likely to touch their babies and engage in attention-seeking behaviours. The interactional behaviours of mothers in the schizophrenia group were not markedly different from healthy controls. On discharge there were fewer differences between the clinical and healthy groups, although the depressed group continued to engage in more attention-seeking and touching behaviour and the mania group continued to touch their infants more. Only mothers in the schizophrenia group showed changes in interactional behaviours between admission and discharge, talking more to their infants.
Conclusion. The findings challenge previous conclusions that mothers with schizophrenia have deficits in their interactions with their babies, and demonstrate that mothers with severe mental illness are able to respond appropriately to their infants’ cues.