Effects of maternal depression in the Still-Face Paradigm: A meta-analysis

Katharine A Graham*, Jacqueline Blissett, Evangelia E Antoniou, Maurice P Zeegers, Joseph P McCleery

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Still-Face Paradigm (SFP) enables researchers to examine the quality of mother-infant interactions. In typical infants, a classic still-face effect (SFE) has been confirmed whereby infants demonstrate reduced positive affect (PA), reduced gaze (GA), and increased negative affect (NA). Recently, the SFP has been used to examine the effect of maternal depression upon infant behaviour. However, the nature and consistency of the behavioural responses of infants of depressed mothers during the SFP remains unclear. In the current meta-analysis, we examined whether or not infants of depressed mothers demonstrate the classic SFE, as well as whether or not these infants display the same levels of PA, NA, and GA as their counterparts with non-depressed mothers. Results revealed that infants of depressed mothers display the classic SFE like infants of their non-depressed counterparts. However, infants of depressed mothers also demonstrated significantly higher levels of PA during the still-face episode. One potential interpretation of this finding is that infants prior experience of similar, depressed interactions with their mothers, encourages them to amplify their positive attachment signals in order to engage maternal attention and response. Alternatively, or additionally, infants of depressed mothers could be using PA in order to regulate their own NA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-164
Number of pages11
JournalInfant Behavior & Development
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


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