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Impact of anxiety disorders and personality dysfunction in pregnancy on mother-infant interactions

Mother-baby-smiling-webThe impact of anxiety disorders and personality dysfunction in pregnancy on mother-infant interactions

Research has shown that depression in pregnancy can be associated with problems in mother-infant interaction. Such difficulties may lead to adverse emotional and behavioural outcomes in children. However, other than depression, there has been little work on mental disorders such as anxiety disorders or personality dysfunction during pregnancy. This has been highlighted as a research area needing attention and perinatal mental health services are currently being prioritised by NHS England. 

The aim of this project is to examine mother-infant interactions in women with anxiety disorders and personality dysfunction in pregnancy compared with a cohort of women with no mental disorder. The study population will be recruited from a representative cohort of pregnant women taking part in the 3 month postnatal follow of the WENDY study.

We plan to measure a 5-minute mother-infant free-play session; thus we will be able to investigate whether anxiety and personality are associated with mother-infant interaction difficulties, adjusting for other potential risk factors already collected through pregnancy.  

If we find that anxiety disorders and/or personality difficulties are associated with mother-infant interaction problems at 3 months postnatal, antenatal identification of these problems could enable earlier interventions to be put in place during pregnancy by health and social care. This could support more positive mother-infant interaction and improve long-term child outcomes. Existing mother-child interventions suitable for the antenatal period could be adapted for these risk groups if we provide evidence for the nature of interaction difficulties. 

Who is involved? 


Nuffield-FoundationThe Nuffield Foundation is an endowed charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being in the widest sense. It funds research and innovation in education and social policy and also works to build capacity in education, science and social science research. The Nuffield Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation. More information is available at For specific details of the current project visit

The WENDY study is a part of the ESMI programme funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) Programme

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