Maternal touch and maternal child-directed speech: effects of depressed mood in the postnatal period.J Affect Disord. 2004 Jul; 81(1):29-39.JA
Postnatal depression affects the emotional state of mothers and the quality of mother-infant interaction.
Touch behaviour and content of child-directed speech were analysed for 72 mothers and their infants during pleasurable play. Infants (18) of mothers with depressed mood and 18 controls were seen when they were 6 months old; and 18 infants of mothers with depressed mood and 18 controls were seen when they were 10 months old.
Depressed mothers in comparison with non-depressed mothers lifted their infants more, restraining their behaviours. Infants of depressed mothers in contrast to infants of non-depressed mothers spent greater periods of time in touching self rather than mother or toy, compensating for the lack of positive touch from their mothers. Mothers with depressed mood of 6-month-old infants included fewer affective and informative features in their speech than their controls. Non-depressed mothers of younger babies showed a higher use of affective features when compared with non-depressed mothers of older infants. In contrast, depressed mothers of 6- and 10-month-old babies showed similar frequencies of affect-salient speech during interactions in spite of their infants' changing developmental demands.
Mothers in this study were only mildly depressed, as assessed by the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Nevertheless, the findings indicate that mothers with depressive symptoms differ from non-depressed mothers in relation to touch and content of speech when interacting with their infants.
These results suggest that postnatal depression may influence touch behaviour as well as the affective and informative content of maternal speech. The effect is that mothers with depressed mood in comparison with non-depressed mothers touch their infants more negatively and their speech is less well adjusted concerning the amount of emotional vs. information-related content thereby preventing depressed mothers from responding effectively to their infants' developmental needs.