The association between maternal lifetime interpersonal trauma experience and perceived mother-infant bonding

Tessel Annejo Kolk*, Selina Nath, Louise Michele Howard, Susan Pawlby, Georgia Lockwood-Estrin, Kylee Trevillion

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Interpersonal traumas are common among expectant and new mothers and are found to have considerable impacts on women's mental health. These experiences may disrupt maternal perceptions of the mother-infant relationship, which is essential for healthy infant development, but findings are inconsistent. This study aims to explore associations between lifetime interpersonal traumas and their impact on self-reported mother-infant bonding. Methods: Secondary data analysis of a representative cohort of 453 women attending at a South London maternity service. Lifetime interpersonal trauma experience and its association with self-reported mother-infant bonding (Postpartum Bonding Questionnaire) was assessed in uni- and multivariable linear regressions, the latter adjusted to account for antenatal depressive and posttraumatic symptoms, measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Scale, and key sociodemographic risk factors. Results: Maternal lifetime trauma was not associated with perceived difficulties in mother-infant bonding at three months postnatal; however antenatal depressive symptoms, both with continuous EPDS score (0.33, 95% CI 0.17–0.50, p<0.001) and clinical cut-off ≥13 (4.26, 95% CI 2.02–6.49, p<0.001) were associated with self-reported bonding difficulties. Limitations: The composite trauma measurement did not allow for a comprehensive assessment of individual trauma types. Conclusions: There was no evidence for a link between maternal lifetime trauma experiences and self-reported bonding difficulties. However, an association between antenatal depressive symptoms and perceived postpartum bonding impairment was found. This highlights the importance of identification and treatment of depressive symptoms during pregnancy and offering women support in facilitating a positive mother-infant relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-127
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • Depression
  • Lifetime trauma
  • Mother-infant bonding
  • Perinatal


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