My dissertation on the impact of maternal mental health

As many of you know I currently study a BSc in Psychology. I am in my final year and (all things going well) should graduate in June 2019. This obviously means that I am working on my dissertation, so I thought I’d share a little bit about it, especially as it’s something that impacts a lot of women today and is something that needs to be spoken out about. I hope you find it as interesting as I do!

The Frugal Frenchie

Edit: If you would like to participate, click on the link here

My dissertation on the impact of maternal mental health

My topic and why I chose it

I’ve decided to do my dissertation on postnatal OCD, more specifically on what, if any impact there is on infant attachment type. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. I am a very maternal person, I love hearing about their behaviour and what they get up to- I mean most people I follow on Instagram are very active mums who love putting stories up!
  2. Maternal, or parental health in general needs to be further researched, but I found that particularly postnatal OCD lacked insight. Perhaps this was a matter of there are fewer people diagnosed or not many people chose to focus on it in their research- I have no clue. I just thought for my personal interest, and in the interest of adding something of value to the academic field, I thought I would focus on postnatal OCD.

Background information

Early-mother infant bond is very important for the developing infant (Ainsworth, 1993). It helps establish their internal working model (IWM)- in other words, what helps them understand themselves and others and how they can determine their role in relation to others e.g. I know you are my mother.

How a child is attended to, can help determine their IWM. If they receive a lot of attention, interaction, communication and eye contact, they’re likely to have a positive IWM. This, in principle, should lead to them growing up having high self-worth and being able to resolve crises as well as have a sense of belonging and availability to others.

My dissertation on the impact of maternal mental health

In some, not all cases (do not assume you are a bad parent if you have or do suffer from mental health issues) a mental health problem can affect a parent’s ability to cope with and care for the baby (Murray et al., 2003). Children of depressed mothers may be more likely to be associated with:

  • Insecure attachment
  • Eating difficulties
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Being overly clinging

Why is this? There are a whole number of potential reasons, none of which are an individual’s fault, it is often just a result of the illness they are suffering with.

Some areas that may be impacted are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is often a very effective way to bond with your child, but the way society views breastfeeding can lead to anxiety or pressure. Something that I see so many mum bloggers trying to tackle is the fact that there’s a stigma if you choose not to breastfeed, however, if you do it openly in public, you’re seen as being inappropriate and being rude. Can a mum ever get it right?

When suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health illnesses (related to paternity or not), there is a manner of reasons you may be distracted.

  • Low mood
  • Lack of motivation
  • Fear of doing something wrong or something going wrong
  • Guilt
  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of self-worth
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of belief in one’s abilities

My dissertation on the impact of maternal mental health

My Hypothesis

Many studies have discussed how postnatal depression or anxiety, can have an effect on infants, however, there is limited research investigating postnatal OCD and its impact. As mental health issues often have symptoms that can overlap, based on previous studies, I predict that mothers with postnatal OCD will show less mindfulness towards their child which may impact their attachment type in future. This doesn’t mean though, that the child will be psychologically harmed or disadvantaged in any way (just want to make that clear)!

The hopeful outcome

I hope that my research can provide a further understanding of the effects that maternal OCD may have on a mother-infant interaction and attachment. I also think it would be terribly rewarding if it somehow could contribute to future research or interventions that will aid mothers to connect with their children and form a more stable relationship for the future.

I always want to make it clear though that having a mental health issue does not make somebody a bad parent or any less capable!

One Reply to “My dissertation on the impact of maternal mental health”

  1. oooh!!! This is so interesting, I graduated my Psychology degree in July (my dissertation topic was on the effect of stimuli type and mood induction on smile authenticity judgements) now I’m doing my masters 🙂
    What study design/procedure are you going to use in order to test your hypothesis?
    Laura / https://www.laustworld.com/

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