Publication Details

Hipwell, A. E., Goossens, F. A., Melhuish, E. C. & Kumar, R. (2000). Severe maternal psychopathology and infant-mother attachment. Development and Psychopathology, 12 (2), 157-175.


Eighty-two mother-infant dyads, comprising women with psychiatric disorder and individually matched controls, were followed up over the children's 1st year of life. The mothers with mental illness consisted of two subgroups: first, 25 severely mentally ill mothers who had been admitted to a psychiatric unit with their infants; and second, 16 mothers from a community sample meeting research diagnostic criteria for unipolar, nonpsychotic depression. With the exception of six dyads in the in-patient group, observations were made of the mother-infant interaction and the quality of the infant-mother attachment relationship at 12 months. The nature and course of the mothers' illness was also documented. Although few residual symptoms of maternal mental illness were detected at 1 year postpartum, interactional disturbances were evident among the case group dyads. A strong association was revealed between infant-mother attachment quality and maternal diagnosis: a manic episode of illness in the postpartum period was related to security in the attachment relationship, and psychotic or nonpsychotic depression was related to insecurity. Concurrent patterns of mother-infant interaction provided support for this finding.