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Improving quality of mother-infant relationship and infant attachment in socioeconomically deprived community in South Africa: randomised controlled trail

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Cooper, P. J., Tomlinson, M., Swartz, L., Landman, M., Molteno, C., Stein, A. L., McPherson, K. and Murray, L. (2009) Improving quality of mother-infant relationship and infant attachment in socioeconomically deprived community in South Africa: randomised controlled trail. British Medical Journal, 338. B974. ISSN 1468-5833

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To link to this article DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b974

Abstract/Summary

Objective To assess the efficacy of an intervention designed to improve the mother-infant relationship and security of infant attachment in a South African peri-urban settlement with marked adverse socioeconomic circumstances. Design Randomised controlled trial. Setting Khayelitsha, a peri-urban settlement in South Africa. Participants 449 pregnant women. Interventions The intervention was delivered from late pregnancy and for six months postpartum. Women were visited in their homes by previously untrained lay community workers who provided support and guidance in parenting. The purpose of the intervention was to promote sensitive and responsive parenting and secure infant attachment to the mother. Women in the control group received no therapeutic input from the research team. Main outcome measures Primary outcomes: quality of mother-infant interactions at six and 12 months postpartum; infant attachment security at 18 months. Secondary outcome: maternal depression at six and 12 months. Results The intervention was associated with significant benefit to the mother-infant relationship. At both six and 12 months, compared with control mothers, mothers in the intervention group were significantly more sensitive (6 months: mean difference=0.77 (SD 0.37), t=2.10, P<0.05, d=0.24; 12 months: mean difference=0.42 (0.18), t=−2.04 , P<0.05, d=0.26) and less intrusive (6 months: mean difference=0.68 (0.36), t=2.28, P<0.05, d=0.26; 12 months: mean difference=−1.76 (0.86), t=2.28 , P<0.05, d=0.24) in their interactions with their infants. The intervention was also associated with a higher rate of secure infant attachments at 18 months (116/156 (74%) v 102/162 (63%); Wald=4.74, odds ratio=1.70, P<0.05). Although the prevalence of maternal depressive disorder was not significantly reduced, the intervention had a benefit in terms of maternal depressed mood at six months (z=2.05, P=0.04) on the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale). Conclusions The intervention, delivered by local lay women, had a significant positive impact on the quality of the mother-infant relationship and on security of infant attachment, factors known to predict favourable child development. If these effects persist, and if they are replicated, this intervention holds considerable promise for use in the developing world.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Winnicott
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:25359
Additional Information:Later correction of this article at BMJ 2009;338:b1858 has DOI 10.1136/bmj.b1858
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group Ltd

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