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Does mothers' postnatal depression influence the development of imitation?

Perra, Oliver, Phillips, Rebecca, Fyfield, Rhiannon, Waters, Cerith ORCID: and Hay, Dale F. ORCID: 2015. Does mothers' postnatal depression influence the development of imitation? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 56 (11) , pp. 1231-1238. 10.1111/jcpp.12413

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Background Links between mothers’ postnatal depression (PND) and children's cognition have been identified in several samples, but the evidence is inconsistent. We hypothesized that PND may specifically interfere with infants’ imitation, an early learning ability that features in early mother–infant interaction and is linked to memory, causal understanding and joint attention. Methods A randomly controlled experiment on imitation was embedded into a longitudinal study of a representative sample of firstborn British infants, whose mothers were assessed for depression using the SCAN interview during pregnancy and at 6 months postpartum. At a mean of 12.8 months, 253 infants were presented with two imitation tasks that varied in difficulty, in counterbalanced order. Results The infants of mothers who experienced PND were significantly less likely than other infants in the sample to imitate the modelled actions, showing a 72% reduction in the likelihood of imitation. The association with PND was not explained by sociodemographic adversity, or a history of depression during pregnancy or prior to conception. Mothers’ references to infants’ internal states during mother–infant interaction at 6 months facilitated imitation at 12 months, but did not explain the link with PND. Conclusions The findings support the hypothesis that associations between PND and later cognitive outcomes may partly derive from effects of the mother's illness on infants’ early learning abilities. Support for infants’ learning should be considered as an age-appropriate, child-focused component of interventions designed to ameliorate the effects of PND.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Uncontrolled Keywords: Learning; infancy; postnatal; maternal depression
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0021-9630
Funders: Medical Research Council
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 5 February 2015
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 23:10

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