Maternal experience of their infants' crying in the context of war trauma: Determinants and consequences.Infant Ment Health J. 2019 03; 40(2):186-203.IM
We examined, first, how prenatal maternal mental health and war trauma predicted mothers' experience of their infant crying, indicated by emotions, cognitions, and behavior; and second, how these experiences influenced the mother-infant interaction and infant development. Participants were 511 Palestinian mothers from the Gaza Strip, reporting their war trauma, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and perceived stress during pregnancy (Time 1). They reported experiences of infant crying at 4 months (Time 2), and the mother-infant interaction and infant sensorimotor and language development at 12 months of infants' age (Time 3). Results revealed that maternal mental health problems, but not war trauma, were important to experiences of infant crying. A high level of PTSD symptoms predicted negative emotions evoked by infant crying, and high depressive symptoms predicted low active and positive responses to crying. Unexpectedly, high prenatal perceived stress predicted high active and positive responsiveness. Concerning the consequences, mothers' sensitive interpretation of infant crying predicted optimal infant sensorimotor development, and mothers' active and positive responses predicted high emotional availability in mother-infant interaction. Crying is the first communication tool for infants, and mothers' sensitive responses to crying contribute to infant well-being. Therefore, reinforcing mother's optimal responses is important when helping war-affected dyads.