Fetal Attachment and Depression: Measurement Matters
Publication Date:December 2003
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between Fetal Attachment (FA) and depression. Condon and Corkindale (1997) have found a relationship between the quality of FA and depression, in women, using the Antenatal Attachment Inventory (AAI; Condon, 1993) to measure FA and four different instruments to measure depression. Previous studies have failed to find a consistent relationship between FA and depression when employing the Fetal Attachment Scale (FAS; Cranley, 1981) to measure FA. In a critical review of the FA research, Muller (1992) proposed that inconsistencies were possibly artifacts of the FAS. This study is both a replication and an elaboration of Condon and Corkindale's study. Several modifications were made to the procedures employed by Condon. This study used both the FAS and the AAI to measure FA, to illuminate whether they would perform equally in explicating the relationship between FA and depression. In addition, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies in Depression Scale (CES-D; Rodloff, 1977) was used to measure depression to determine if Condon and Corkindale's results would be upheld with a fifth measure of depression. Other modifications included: testing males to determine any sex differences and comparing persons with and without a history of major depression. There were 68 expecting adults in the study (35 females and 33 male partners).
Results from this study, demonstrated that it does matter how FA is measured. As expected, the FAS did not correlate with the CES-D and, as Condon and Corkindale found, the AAI-Quality subscale did. For women, there was a significant inverse relationship between FA-Quality and depression (r = -.62, p < .01) and there was no association between FA-Intensity (i.e., the amount of time women spent engaging in FA behavior) and depression. Further analysis of the relationship between FA and depression was obtained by investigating results from the AAI data. Sex differences were detected; there were no significant associations between FA-Quality and depression for males. It was expected and confirmed that parents with a history of depression report greater depressive symptoms than parents without a history of major depression. Further exploration of the types of symptoms reported by individuals, with a history of major depression, revealed that women reported more somatic symptoms than men, but not more non-somatic symptoms. However, women, with a history of depression, reported more non-somatic symptoms of depression than women, without a history of major depression. Possible mechanisms that could account for the link between FA and depression are considered and the clinical importance of early detection and treatment of depression during pregnancy are discussed.
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Gail F. Kunkel, M.A. and Helen McK. Doan, Ph.D.
Gail Kunkel, M.A. is a doctoral student in Clinical Developmental Psychology at York University, Toronto, Ontario. This paper was based on her Master's thesis. Helen McKinnon Doan, Ph.D. is a Senior Scholar and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology, York University and a Psychologist in Private Practice. The postal address for both authors is the Department of Psychology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3J 1P3. Their email addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.