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Social support and emotional resources predict facets of maternal-infant bonding in a new capital-based model of maternal investment

Myers, Sarah, Johns, Sarah E. (2019) Social support and emotional resources predict facets of maternal-infant bonding in a new capital-based model of maternal investment. BMC Pregnancy and childbirth, . ISSN 1471-2393. (Submitted) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:78585)

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Abstract

Background Positive maternal-infant bonding (MIB), i.e. the feelings and emotions which a mother has towards her infant, is important in early infant development; yet delayed or poor bonding is not uncommon, with estimates ranging up to 11% in Western contexts. Existing literature indicates MIB is contingent on maternal and infant condition and requires energy expenditure – viewed through an evolutionary lens, together with the benefits to infant development, this suggests MIB is an early form of parental investment. Here we propose and test a new emotional capital model, grounded in evolutionary life history theory, for understanding patterns of MIB.

Methods A longitudinal survey study tracked Western women across the perinatal period. MIB was measured as strength of bonding at 1 month postpartum and self-reported time taken to feel strongly bonded. Emotional capital is defined as a mother’s available emotional support from a range of actors and her emotional resources (quantified as emotional intelligence, emotional personality, and emotional wellbeing); emotional capital was measured during pregnancy and at 6 months postpartum. Poisson regression models assessed whether emotional capital positively predicts MIB. Multiple regression models assessed whether MIB predicts a decline in maternal emotional resources. Moderation analysis assessed whether emotional support acts as a buffer against declines in emotional resources.

Results Emotional intelligence and wellbeing positively predicted MIB, as did support from own family and friends; however, support from the infant’s paternal kin showed the opposite relationship. Strength of bonding positively predicted declines in overall emotional resources and emotional intelligence, and increases in the tendency to display anger traits. High levels of overall emotional support buffered against declines in the tendency to display caring and playful traits as bonding strengthened.

Conclusions These results indicate MIB is contingent on a mother’s available emotional capital and costly when access to emotional support is low. Interventions targeting maternal social isolation are likely to be beneficial for MIB, and attention should be paid to the benefits infants gain form early emotional engagement with family members other than the mother.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: maternal-infant, mother-infant, bonding, emotional capital, life history theory, parental investment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA790 Mental health
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics > RG551 Pregnancy
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Sarah Johns
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2019 11:06 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2021 09:29 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/78585 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Johns, Sarah E.: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7715-7351
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