Parental Embodied Mentalizing (PEM) regards parents’ nonverbal capacity to understand the infant's bodily manifested mental states and adjust his or her own movements accordingly. Little is known about how mothers suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) mentalize the infant on an embodied level. The aims of the present study were to investigate whether mothers meeting criteria for a PPD diagnosis differ from non-clinical mothers in regard to their PEM capacities and whether the severity of depressive symptoms was associated with PEM in mothers meeting criteria for a PPD diagnosis compared to non-clinical mothers. 10-minute long lab-based face-to-face interactions were coded with the PEM coding scheme at 4-months postpartum in mother-infant dyads with mothers meeting criteria for a PPD diagnosis (n = 29) and non-clinical mothers (n = 51). Results showed that mothers with and without a PPD diagnosis differ in their capacity to mentalize on an embodied level, but only when controlling for scores on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). However, more depressive symptoms as measured with the EPDS was not in itself associated with lower PEM in either group. This finding may indicate the presence of a threshold effect, i.e. that maternal PEM may be affected only when a certain degree of severity and duration in depressive symptoms is beyond a certain threshold. The importance of the findings in regard to the assessment of depression as well as more clinical perspectives are discussed.
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- Mother-infant interaction
- Parental Embodied Mentalizing
- Postpartum Depression
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology