The concept analysis of parent-infant bonding during pregnancy and infancy: a systematic review and meta-synthesis

Sandra Nakić Radoš, Ilana Hairston, Jonathan Eliyahu Handelzalts

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Despite the emerging body of literature on mother-to-infant bonding and the associated variables, there are various definitions of bonding construct. Also, there is a lack of a comprehensive conceptual framework of antecedents and consequences of bonding that would guide empirical work. Objective: Aim of the study was to provide a systematic review and synthesis of concept analysis studies on maternal-foetal, mother-infant, or father-infant bonding. Method: A systematic search was performed in PubMed, EBSCOHost (including PsycINFO), ProQuest, and CINAHL. In addition, a hand search was conducted. Papers were eligible for inclusion if they conducted concept analyses on mother or father to foetus/infant bonding. A qualitative meta-synthesis was applied to synthesise the findings. Results: Eight papers on concept analyses were eligible for inclusion. In meta-synthesis, six aspects of parent-to-(unborn) child bonding emerged, including direction, domain, process, timing, endurance, and parental gender. Defining attributes are (i) a close relationship, (ii) filled with positive parental affection, (iii) manifested during pregnancy as monitoring foetal development and behaviour and after childbirth in proximity and interaction. Antecedents, affecting factors, and consequences of the parent-child bonding have been summarised. Conclusion: Parent-infant bonding refers to an emotional, behavioural, cognitive, and neurobiological tie of the parent to the (unborn) child, as a process from intention to have a child throughout infancy. This is a parental-driven process which can continue to evolve throughout child’s and parent’s life, characterised as enduring, committed, and engaged. Based on meta-synthesis, a conceptual structure of parent-infant bonding has been provided, which needs further empirical testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-165
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date2 Jan 2023
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Society for Reproductive & Infant Psychology.


  • Mother-infant bonding
  • bond
  • concept analysis
  • maternal-foetal attachment
  • parents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Reproductive Medicine


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