Findings from the VIHCS Study

The Parental Bonds of Adolescent Girls and Next-Generation Maternal-Infant Bonding: Findings from the Victorian Intergenerational Health Cohort Study

According to a recent paper using data from the Victorian Intergenerational Health Cohort Study, the relationship between teenage girls and their parents can predict next-generation mother-baby bonding later in life.

Researchers examined relationships between adolescent girls and their parents at age 16 and assessed these same women up to twenty years later, when they were adult mothers of infants aged 2 and 12 months.

Teenage girls who reported that their mother was over-controlling were more likely to express feelings of anxiety, distance or anger towards their own child. Those felt they received a lack of care or neglect from fathers also reported later infant bonding problems. These findings suggest that parents who demonstrate affection, warmth and trust in their relationships with teenage daughters are laying the foundations for their daughters’ relationships with their own infant children, if they themselves become mothers.

In a recent Herald Sun article, co-author and Centre for Adolescent Health researcher Elizabeth Spry said, “the good news was they found many young women who had difficult relationships with their parents were able to start a new footing with their own children.” Elizabeth also spoke on ABC Radio Sydney (1:02:09), discussing the finding that not all adolescent girls who reported difficult relationships with their parents went on to struggle with their own motherhood, and that becoming a parent can be an opportunity to reflect on the parenting you received and decide what you might do differently.

These findings indicate that strategies to help new mothers and families may need to occur well before pregnancy. Strategies to strengthen the quality of parent-adolescent relationships in teenage years may also pay dividends for the next generation by improving emotional connections and minimising anxiety and depression in early motherhood.

Also reported in The Age Newspaper October 20th 2017.


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