A study of maternal anxiety

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Copyright: Barnett, Bryanne
The aim of this research was to examine the effects of anxiety upon mothering behaviour and the relationship between infant and mother. A naturalistic cohort study was designed to assess the longitudinal adaptation, throughout the first year of their infant's life, of primiparous mothers who differed in terms of having high, moderate or low levels of trait anxiety. Interventions designed to reduce anxiety were offered to two subgroups of the highly anxious subjects. Compliance with study requirements and with the interventions was very high. Primiparous women (n=627) were screened on state and trait anxiety measures on the third or fourth day post-partum. Subgroups (approximately 30 in each) of highly anxious, moderately anxious and minimally anxious mothers were obtained. High trait-anxious subjects were further subdivided by random allocation to one of two intervention groups - professional or non-professional - or to a high anxiety control group. Non-professional intervention comprised allocation to the subject of an experienced mother who had volunteered to be available for support, common sense advice and practical help. Professional intervention comprised assistance from a social worker who provided support and any professional strategies indicated, such as specific anti-anxiety measures or marital therapy. vi Changes in anxiety levels for mothers not receiving an intervention were minimal over the study period. In the high-anxiety subgroups, there was a 19% reduction in state anxiety levels for those receiving a professional intervention, a 12% reduction for those receiving a nonprofessional intervention, and a 3% reduction in the controls. A planned contrast analysis determined that only professional intervention had a significant effect, intervention successfully lowering state anxiety levels to a value comparable with the moderately anxious mothers.
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Barnett, Bryanne
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PhD Doctorate
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