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Title: The influence of mindfulness and mental health on maternal sensitivity and child outcomes across the perinatal period
Author: Carr, Sara E.
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2017
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The first part of this thesis is a narrative synthesis of the literature that examines mindfulness and child outcomes across the perinatal period. A total of 13 studies met inclusion criteria and were discussed in relation to two categories: studies that explored dispositional mindfulness and studies that explored the feasibility and/or effectiveness of mindfulness interventions. The review highlighted evidence that suggests that dispositional prenatal mindfulness may be naturally protective against the development of psychopathology during the perinatal period. Intervention studies provide promising evidence that mindfulness interventions (both brief and intensive) can improve mood and wellbeing and have positive effects on some child health and socio-emotional outcomes. However, empirical evidence is still in its infancy, and very few conclusions can be drawn from this research in relation to the impact of maternal mindfulness on the development of maternal sensitivity and its longer-term impact on child development. The review identified a fundamental need for replication of studies using randomised controlled trials with active control groups and larger sample sizes. Longer follow-up periods are also required in order to identify whether the positive post-intervention effects are sustained into the postnatal period and beyond. The second part of this thesis is an empirical study investigating the associations between mental health, dispositional mindfulness and maternal sensitivity in expectant mothers during their third trimester of pregnancy. Signal Detection Theory was applied in order to differentiate between discrimination (whether expectant mothers can discriminate between happy and sad infant emotions) and response bias (whether expectant mothers have a propensity to rate emotional faces as either ‘happy’ or ‘sad’). Results showed that mental health difficulties positively correlated with a greater propensity to interpret infant expressions (both positive and negative expressions) as ‘sad’. Higher dispositional mindfulness was also associated with lower depression and lower anxiety. An association between dispositional mindfulness and maternal sensitivity was not found. Findings are discussed in relation to previous research and also highlight limitations with the maternal sensitivity task design. This research adds to the limited literature on dispositional mindfulness.
Supervisor: Garner, Matthew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available