Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Stephen B. Hillman

Second Advisor

Ann M. Stacks


The purpose of this study was to examine the predictability of prenatal factors, including maternal depression, reflective functioning, and romantic attachment style, on maternal mental representations at seven months postpartum. The participants were 74 mothers, a subsample of the Perinatal Imaging of Neural Connectivity study (PINC). Data from the current study were collected using semi-structured interviews, including the Pregnancy Interview-Revised (PI-R) (Slade, Grunebaum, Huganir, & Reeves, 1987) and the Working Model of the Child Interview (WMCI; Zeanah, Benoit, Barton, & Hirshberg, 1996); and self-report questionnaires, including the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) (Cox, Holden, & Sagovsky, 1987) and the Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised (ECR-R) (Fraley, Waller, & Brennan, 2000). Data were analyzed using Multinomial Logistic Regression.

When the variables were examined separately, the results revealed that maternal depression was not related to maternal mental representations. However, both the prenatal reflective functioning and romantic attachment style scales predicted maternal representations at seven months postpartum. When maternal reflective functioning was examined in conjunction with romantic attachment style, maternal reflectivity predicted maternal mental representations over and above the impact of romantic attachment style. Nevertheless, when the romantic attachment scales were combined to represent one single security score, the results revealed that both prenatal reflective functioning and romantic attachment (security scores) make unique contributions to mothers’ maternal representations of their children and their relationships with them.

The findings from the study suggest that both maternal reflectivity during pregnancy and the security of their romantic attachment protect mothers from developing unbalanced representations, especially disengaged representations. The study has important contributions to the attachment literature by supporting the intergeneration transition of attachment. It also supports attachment-based therapy that aims to enhance mothers’ reflectivity during pregnancy, and the authors made recommendations about specific therapeutic strategies to help women with distorted representations.