Predictors of maternal sensitivity during the early postpartum period

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Abstract

Aim

This paper reports a study examining the relationship of maternal sensitivity to maternal identity, social support, maternal–fetal attachment and demographic variables.

Background

Maternal sensitivity is a mother's ability to perceive and interpret accurately her infant's signals and communications, and then respond appropriately. It is one of the major influencing factors of mother–infant attachment, and needs to be promoted for effective mother–infant interaction. However, limited information is available on the factors that influence postpartum maternal sensitivity. The study was guided by Roy's adaptation model.

Methods

A cross-sectional, descriptive design was used. A convenience sample of 196 Korean mothers within 6 weeks of delivery were recruited during July–November 2003 and completed a self-report questionnaire. The data were analysed using descriptive statistics and stepwise multiple regression analysis.

Results

We found that maternal–fetal attachment, self-identity as a mother, mother's employment status, identification with her baby, support from others, and infant's gestational age at birth were statistically significant predictors of maternal sensitivity postpartum. These variables explained 60% of the variance in maternal sensitivity.

Conclusion

Providing social support, enhancing maternal identity, and facilitating maternal–fetal attachment in the antepartum period are recommended to improve postpartum maternal sensitivity. Also, in future research, a path-type model or structural equation model including other variables, such as postnatal depression, needs to be developed and tested for optimal adaptation to becoming a mother.

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