Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 799–807 | Cite as

Prenatal maternal personality as an early predictor of vulnerable parenting style

  • Karen Hazell RaineEmail author
  • Wendell Cockshaw
  • Philip Boyce
  • Karen Thorpe
Original Article


Perinatal mental health problems, particularly depression, are prevalent and have been a central focus of prevention initiatives. The greater proportion of ongoing annual perinatal mental health economic cost burdens relate to children. A key linking mechanism is mother-infant relationship quality. Perinatal depression symptoms are typically transient. However, personality style, including interpersonal sensitivity, is a more stable construct and predicts proneness to depression and common mental disorders. Building on our previous work, the objective of the present study is to examine the association between specific dimensions of prenatal interpersonal sensitivity and postpartum mother-infant relationship quality in the context of prenatal depression symptoms. We analysed data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Interpersonal sensitivity and depression symptoms were measured at 18 weeks gestation. In a randomly selected 10% subsample of the ALSPAC cohort, mother-infant interaction was measured through standard observation at 12 months postpartum. For the subsample that had complete data at all time points (n = 812), multiple regression models examined prenatal interpersonal sensitivity dimensions predicting postpartum mother-infant relationship quality, accounting for depression symptoms. Two dimensions of maternal interpersonal sensitivity modestly predicted mother-infant relationship quality at 12 months postpartum and remained robust when we controlled for depression symptoms. The interpersonal sensitivity subscales were significantly associated with prenatal depression symptoms but more consistently and robustly predicted postnatal mother-infant interaction quality. The inclusion of personality measures may strengthen prenatal mental health assessment to identify vulnerability to suboptimal mother-infant relationship quality.


Prenatal Personality Child Parenting ALSPAC 



We are extremely grateful to all the families who took part in this study, the midwives for their help in recruiting them and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists and nurses. The current small-scale replication of this work in metropolitan Sydney, Australia, is supported by the Elaine Tolley Medal for Mental Health Research established through the Westmead Medical Research Foundation. This publication is the work of the authors who will serve as guarantors for the contents of this paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethics approval

Ethics approval was obtained from the ALSPAC Ethics and Law Committee, the University of Sydney and Western Sydney Local Health District Human Ethics Research Committees.

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Hazell Raine
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wendell Cockshaw
    • 2
  • Philip Boyce
    • 1
  • Karen Thorpe
    • 3
  1. 1.Discipline of Psychiatry, Westmead Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine and HealthThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Health and Biomedical SciencesRoyal Melbourne Institute of TechnologyMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Institute for Social Science ResearchThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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