Early mother-infant interaction and infant mental health

The quality of the mother-infant relationship early in infancy forms a foundation for infants’ subsequent social and emotional development. In particular, mothers’ sensitive responses to behavioural and emotional cues help their infants develop a sense of self and help them regulate their emotions. Attachment — or the bond between infants and their caregivers — is a developmental achievement in the first year of life that is essential for healthy physical and psychological growth. Studies have shown that insecurely-attached infants are at risk for a range of negative developmental outcomes. Nancy Mcquaid was funded by MSFHR for her early PhD work into the relationship between attachment and infant mental health. She is continuing this longitudinal investigation among a community sample of mothers and their infants. Mcquaid’s research is now evaluating whether maternal responsiveness and infant social expectations observed at four months are related to subsequent infant mental health at 12 and 30 months of age. She is also assessing the impact of mother and infant temperament to healthy developmental outcomes. Mcquaid’s research will contribute to our understanding of healthy infant development and will help develop means of intervention for infants who are at risk for developmental emotional and interactive disturbances, such as infants of mothers with postpartum depression and low birth weight infants.