Psychology of Men & Masculinity (Online First Publication)
Positive attachment experiences during infancy are linked to positive developmental outcomes of children later in life. The parent-infant relationship does not start upon the birth of the child, but already evolves during pregnancy. In this exploratory study, fathers' experiences during pregnancy are investigated, focusing on their relationship with the unborn baby. At 26 weeks gestational age, expectant fathers from a Dutch community-based sample (N = 301) completed questionnaires concerning feelings of attachment to the fetus and psychological well-being. The semistructured Working Model of the Child Interview was conducted to assess the "meaning" the unborn child has to the father (i.e., the internal representation of the fetus). Results show that the quality of fathers' prenatal attachment and their representations of the fetus were interrelated. Fathers who reported a higher quality of prenatal attachment were more likely to have balanced representations of their unborn children, whereas fathers with a lower quality of attachment were more likely to show disengaged representations. Furthermore, the quality of fathers' self-reported prenatal attachment was higher when fathers experienced fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy, when they were younger, and when they expected their first child. These factors were not significantly related to fathers' internal representations of the fetus. Further research is needed to examine the effects of the prenatal father-infant relationship on postnatal father-child attachment, infant behavior, and infant development. (Author abstract)
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