Link to the full scientific article

Associations between symptoms of maternal postpartum depression, gestational age and infant social withdrawal: A longitudinal study in a community cohort.

Abstract: Infant social withdrawal is a risk factor for non-optimal child development; therefore, it is important to identify risk factors associated with withdrawal. In a large community sample (N=19 017), we investigate whether maternal and partner postpartum depression (PPD; measured with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) symptoms and prematurity are predictors of infant social withdrawal (measured with the Infant Distress Scale). Withdrawal was assessed at 2-3, 4-7, and 8-12 months postpartum. Linear regressions showed that prematurity predicted greater infant social withdrawal at all time points, and that maternal PPD symptoms were positively associated with withdrawal at 2-3 months. Logistic regressions showed that the likelihood of high social withdrawal increased with higher levels of maternal PPD symptoms at 2-3 and 8-12 months. Partner PPD symptoms were not associated with withdrawal. Future studies should examine how PPD symptoms and prematurity may influence the individual development of social withdrawal.

Expert Note: This is not the first study to show the vulnerability of preterm infants to develop relational withdrawal, nor is it the first study to link maternal postnatal depression and relational withdrawal. Here, the link between these two risk factors is highlighted and demonstrates if it is still necessary that :

  • screening for postnatal depression is absolutely necessary
  • that monitoring of premature infants must also focus on the axis of social-emotional development
  • and that particular attention must be paid to this highly vulnerable population.