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December, 2003
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It has been established that attachment to one's preborn child is often associated with attachment with the child after the birth (Benoit, Parker, & Zeanah, 1997; Muller, 1996; Fuller, 1990). Also attachment between child and primary care giver has been shown to be paramount to the emotional well being of children (Bowlby, 1969; Ainsworth, 1985a). As well, attachment to one's fetus may contribute to lower risk of child abuse (Pollock & Percy, 1999). There has been considerable interest in the past 20 years in antenatal attachment and its correlates. Despite some contradictory results, the literature highlights that prenatal attachment is likely contextual (i.e., it interacts with demographic, situational, and personality variables, and is influenced by, for example, culture, age, social and health-related support, marital relationship, etc.; Salisbury, Law, LaGasse, & Lester, 2003). However, pregnancy occurring when one is already a mother, is infrequently examined. Further, the context of a mother of a child with disabilities who is expecting another baby, constitutes an intuitively important, yet neglected area in the study of prenatal attachment.

This paper reports results of a study where mothers of a child with Down syndrome (DS) who are pregnant again, pregnant mothers of 'typically' developing child(ren), and first-time mothers-to-be, were surveyed on a number of areas related to prenatal attachment. Results indicated that there were group differences in a number of domains. For example, initial reaction to pregnancy was less joyful for mothers of a child with DS; prenatal attachment was lower in mothers expecting a subsequent baby; and women expecting their first child spent more time in prenatal attachment behaviors than those expecting a subsequent baby. As well, correlations among the variables were different in the three groups. An interesting finding was that half of the DS group did not plan this pregnancy (compared with only 20% and 21% respectively for the other groups), and cited religious or moral reasons for having the baby. Further study is needed in order to, improve the knowledge in the area of subsequent pregnancy, especially after having a child with disabilities, and to enhance clinical and social service delivery systems for this population.


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Anona Zimerman, M.A. and Helen McK. Doan, Ph.D.

Anona Zimerman M.A. is a doctoral candidate in Clinical Developmental Psychology at York University, Toronto, Ontario and a therapist at Surrey Place Centre where she works with families of children with Developmental Disabilities. She is also a Certified Childbirth Educator and Doula in Toronto. This paper was based on data collected for her doctoral dissertation. Helen McKinnon Doan Ph.D. is a Senior Scholar and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at York University, Toronto, Ontario and a Psychologist in Private Practice in Toronto. The address for both authors is Department of Psychology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3J 1P3. Their email addresses are anonaz@yorku.ca and hdoan@ yorku.ca.