Early maladaptive schemas as predictors of maternal bonding to the unborn child
AuthorNordahl, Dag; Høifødt, Ragnhild Sørensen; Bohne, Agnes; Landsem, Inger Pauline; Wang, Catharina Elisabeth Arfwedson; Thimm, Jens
Background - The quality of an expectant mother’s bonding to the fetus has been shown to be associated with important developmental outcomes. Previous studies suggest that bonding quality is predicted by, for example, social support, psychological well-being, and depression. However, little is known regarding the role of maternal cognition in maternal-fetal bonding. Early maladaptive schemas (EMSs) are negative and stable assumptions about oneself and one’s relationships with others that are developed during childhood and adolescence. In the present study, we examined the associations between EMSs and the quality of the bonding to the fetus in expectant mothers.
Methods - The present investigation is part of a larger study in which 220 pregnant women (approximately 12% of the pregnant women in the region) and 130 of their partners were recruited from October 2015 until December 2017. The sample for the current study comprised 165 pregnant women (mean age 30.8 years, SD 4.1 years). The participants completed the Young Schema Questionnaire Short Form 3 (YSQ-S3) between gestational weeks 24 and 37 and the Maternal Antenatal Attachment Scale (MAAS) and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) between gestational weeks 31 and 41.
Results - All EMS domains correlated significantly and negatively with scores for quality of maternal-fetal bonding on the MAAS. Only the Disconnection and Rejection domain correlated significantly and negatively with MAAS scores for intensity of preoccupation with the fetus. The Disconnection and Rejection domain was a significant independent predictor of the quality of maternal-fetal bonding. Symptoms of depression mediated the effect of the EMS domains on the quality of maternal-fetal bonding. The EMS domains Disconnection and Rejection, Impaired Autonomy and Performance, and Impaired Limits showed significant direct effects on bonding quality.
Conclusions - EMSs are related to expectant mothers’ self-reported bonding to their fetuses. This association was mediated by the mothers’ symptoms of depression. The results may have implications for the early identification of pregnant women at risk of bonding difficulties and encourage more studies on cognitive schemas and mechanisms for maternal-fetal bonding.