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PhD thesis defense
PhD thesis defense — Katharina Cordes defends her PhD thesis “Caregiving Behavior in Mothers with and without Postpartum Depression: Associations with Reflective Functioning and Maternal Touch”.
Date & Time:
University of Copenhagen, Centre for Health and Society, Øster Farimagsgade 5, building 35, room 35.01.05, 1353 Copenhagen K.
Department of Psychology
“Caregiving Behavior in Mothers with and without Postpartum Depression: Associations with Reflective Functioning and Maternal Touch”. The Thesis will be available for reading at the Faculty Library of Social Science, Gothersgade 140, 1353 Copenhagen K.
Time and venue
Wednesday the 11th October 2017 13:00. University of Copenhagen, Centre for Health and Society, Øster Farimagsgade 5, building 35, room 35.01.05, 1353 Copenhagen K (entrance via Gammeltoftgade). Kindly note that the defence will start precisely at the announced time.
The overall aim of the present thesis was to investigate maternal sensitive and insensitive (i.e. overriding) caregiving behavior and its determinants at four months postpartum in mothers with and without postpartum depression (PPD). The thesis includes three empirical articles, which examine 1) Reflective Functioning, i.e. the ability to reflect upon one’s own and others’ behavior in terms of underlying mental states (RF; Fonagy et al., 1991), 2) associations between RF and sensitive and overriding caregiving behavior, and 3) association between maternal touch and sensitive and overriding caregiving behavior in 60 nonclinical women and 30 women with PPD. The sample can be considered low-risk in regard to standard demographic variables, such as educational level, social support, and unemployment status. We hypothesized that mothers with PPD would show lower RF abilities, and less optimal caregiving behavior in the mother-infant interaction. Moreover, we expected that the association between RF and caregiving behavior, and touch and caregiving behavior was moderated by PPD. Results showed that mothers with and without PPD differed neither in their RF abilities, nor in the quality of their caregiving behavior. However, the relationship between RF and sensitive behavior was moderated by PPD: whereas in the clinical group, higher RF scores were associated with higher sensitivity, in the nonclinical group, moderate RF scores were associated with higher sensitivity than both low and high RF scores. Moreover, we found an association between caregiving touch and sensitive behavior, and playful touch and overriding behavior in the whole sample, but this relationship was not moderated by maternal PPD. The results are discussed in regard to methodological and contextual influences on RF and caregiving behavior in our sample. In addition, we propose that RF might function in the way of a midrange model in the absence of psychopathology, while it may buffer effects of maternal PPD on sensitive behavior in the presence of maternal psychopathology. Also, we underline the central role of touch in maternal caregiving behavior, which should be explored further within a culture- and context-specific framework. Lastly, we outline possible directions for future research, and we briefly discuss clinical implications.