Amer J Perinatol 2017; 34(08): 808-817
DOI: 10.1055/s-0037-1599052
Original Article
Thieme Medical Publishers 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Maternal Bonding through Pregnancy and Postnatal: Findings from an Australian Longitudinal Study

Larissa Rossen1, Delyse Hutchinson1, 2, 3, 4, Judy Wilson1, Lucinda Burns1, Steve Allsop5, Elizabeth J. Elliott6, Sue Jacobs7, Jacqui A. Macdonald2, 3, 4, Craig Olsson2, 3, 4, Richard P. Mattick1
  • 1National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • 2Faculty of Health, School of Psychology, Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
  • 3Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Population Studies of Adolescents, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • 4Department of Paediatrics and Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • 5National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Western Australia, Australia
  • 6Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, The University of Sydney, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • 7Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, New South Wales, Australia
Further Information

Publication History

04 July 2016

05 January 2017

Publication Date:
17 February 2017 (eFirst)


Background Mother-infant bonding provides the foundation for secure attachment through the lifespan and organizes many facets of infant social-emotional development, including later parenting.

Aims To describe maternal bonding to offspring across the pregnancy and postnatal periods, and to examine a broad range of sociodemographic and psychosocial predictors of the maternal-offspring bond.

Methods Data were drawn from a sample of 372 pregnant women participating in an Australian population-based longitudinal study of postnatal health and development. Participants completed maternal bonding questionnaires at each trimester and 8 weeks postnatal. Data were collected on a range of sociodemographic and psychosocial factors.

Results Bonding increased significantly through pregnancy, in quality and intensity. Regression analyses indicated that stronger antenatal bonding at all time points (trimesters 1 through 3) predicted stronger postnatal bonding. Older maternal age, birth mother being born in a non-English speaking country, mother not working full time, being a first-time mother, breast-feeding problems, and baby's crying behavior all predicted poorer bonding at 8 weeks postpartum.

Conclusion These novel findings have important implications for pregnant women and their infant offspring, and for health care professionals working in perinatal services. Importantly, interventions to strengthen maternal-fetal bonding would be beneficial during pregnancy to enhance postnatal bonding and infant health outcomes.