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The course of maternal repetitive negative thinking at the transition to motherhood and early mother–infant interactions: Is there a link?

  • Dana Müller (a1), Tobias Teismann (a2), Gerrit Hirschfeld (a3), Norbert Zmyj (a4), Sabrina Fuths (a1), Silja Vocks (a5), Silvia Schneider (a1) and Sabine Seehagen (a6)...

Potential long-term associations between repetitive negative thinking and mother-infant interactions have received little attention. The current longitudinal study including N = 62 mother-infant dyads investigated both maternal and infant behavior in face-to-face interactions as a function of pre- and postnatal maternal repetitive negative thinking when infants were aged around 4 months. We hypothesised that mothers with a strong tendency to engage in repetitive negative thinking would react less contingently to their infants’ behavior compared to mothers with a weak tendency to engage in repetitive negative thinking. Furthermore, we hypothesised that infants of mothers high in repetitive negative thinking would differ from infants of mothers low in repetitive negative thinking in their reactions in the still-face task. Contrary to expectations, there was no difference in maternal contingency between mothers high versus low in repetitive negative thinking. However, infant behavior in the still-face task differed as a function of maternal repetitive negative thinking status. Specifically, infants of mothers high in repetitive negative thinking spent more time with object/environment engagement than infants of mothers who were low in repetitive negative thinking, and they also protested less frequently. These findings are discussed in terms of their relevance for the intergenerational transmission of mental disorders.

Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: Dana Müller, Department of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Massenbergstraße 9-13, 44787 Bochum, Germany; E-mail:
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