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Title: Processing of emotional information in the context of pre and postnatal depression
Author: Fone, Rebecca Helen
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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The perinatal period can represent a transitional stage in women's lives when they are more vulnerable to psychological distress. Depression during this period can have devastating consequences, not only for the women experiencing it but also for their children, who are more likely to have cognitive, behavioural and attachment problems. One suggested mechanism for transmission of this increased risk is disturbances in mother-child interactions and maternal responsivity which have been associated with postnatal depression (PND). These may be affected by how mothers experience and perceive their infant's signals. The first paper reviews the literature regarding how women with PND and antenatal depression (AND) process emotional information such as facial expressions and vocal tone. Behavioural and neuro-imaging studies exploring processing of such stimuli in women with AND and PND are critically reviewed. The second paper investigates mothers' perceptions of emotional infant stimuli in the context of current and remitted PND. Despite maternal remission from PND, children of mothers who have experienced PND continue to be at risk of adverse outcomes. Evidence from studies of non-postnatal depression suggests that biases in the perception of emotional information can remain despite remission. Therefore a possible mechanism for the affects of PND on child outcomes is mother's impaired interpretation of information from their infants which may continue despite maternal remission from the depressive symptoms. The current study compared maternal ratings of infant facial expressions and infant vocalisations given by mothers with a current PND diagnosis (n=2 1) and those who had remitted from PND (n=52). Mothers taking part in a larger randomised control trial were asked to rate a number of infant facial expressions and infant vocalisations, each presenting a different level of emotion namely positive, muted positive, neutral, muted negative and negative. Results showed that mothers who had remitted from depression rated infant facial expressions differently to mothers with a current diagnosis of PND. However, no group differences were found for infant vocalisations. These findings suggest that the biases associated with PND for infant facial expressions are not present or do not influence mothers' interpretations of infant auditory stimuli in the same way. Alternatively, biases in interpretations of auditory stimuli may persist despite remission. This may have implications for focusing interventions that aim to improve mother-child interactions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available