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Postnatal mental health and mothers' processing of infant emotion: an eye-tracking study

Webb, R. and Ayers, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6153-2460 (2019). Postnatal mental health and mothers' processing of infant emotion: an eye-tracking study. Anxiety, Stress and Coping, doi: 10.1080/10615806.2019.1620215

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Postnatal mental illnesses are associated with less maternal sensitivity. Differences in how mothers with and without mental illness process infant emotions could explain this. People with mental illness in non-perinatal populations show certain processing patterns when viewing emotional faces, but it is not clear whether these patterns are present in mothers.

OBJECTIVE: Compared to mothers without affective symptoms (anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress). Task 1 aimed to identify whether mothers with affective symptoms show an attentional bias towards negative infant faces; and Task 2 aimed to identify whether mothers with affective symptoms look less at infants' eyes compared to eyes and mouth. DESIGN: An experimental design was used in two tasks to answer the research objective.

METHODS: Mothers with affective symptoms (n = 23) and without affective symptoms (n = 47) had their eye movements tracked whilst: Task 1, viewing pairs of infant faces; and Task 2, viewing morphed infant faces.

RESULTS: In Task 1 mothers with affective symptoms were more likely to fixate first on neutral faces when the choice was between negative and neutral. In Task 2, no differences were found between groups.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings from Task 1 are unexpected given previous research. More research is needed to identify potential explanations for this.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Anxiety, Stress and Coping on 22 May 2019, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/10615806.2019.1620215.
Publisher Keywords: Attentional bias, eye tracking, postnatal mental health, infant faces
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/22369
[img] Text - Accepted Version
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