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Controlled trial of the short- and long-term effect of psychological treatment of post-partum depression: 2. Impact on the mother-child relationship and child outcome

  • Lynne Murray (a1), Peter J. Cooper (a1), Anji Wilson (a2) and Helena Romaniuk (a3)

Postnatal depression is associated with adverse child cognitive and socio-emotional outcome. It is not known whether psychological treatment affects the quality of the mother–child relationship and child outcome.


To evaluate the effect of three psychological treatments on the mother–child relationship and child outcome.


Women with post-partum depression (n=193) were assigned randomly to routine primary care, non-directive counselling, cognitive–behavioural therapy or psychodynamic therapy. The women and their children were assessed at 4.5, 18 and 60 months post-partum.


Indications of a positive benefit were limited. All three treatments had a significant benefit on maternal reports of early difficulties in relationships with the infants; counselling gave better infant emotional and behaviour ratings at 18 months and more sensitive early mother–infant interactions. The treatments had no significant impact on maternal management of early infant behaviour problems, security of infant–mother attachment, infant cognitive development or any child outcome at 5 years.


Early intervention was of short-term benefit to the mother–child relationship and infant behaviour problems. More-prolonged intervention may be needed. Health visitors could deliver this.

Corresponding author
Professor Lynne Murray, Winnicott Research Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Reading, Whiteknights, 3 Earley Gate, Reading RG6 6AL, UK
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See part 1 pp. 412–419, this issue.

Declaration of interest

None. Funding detailed in Acknowledgements.

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Controlled trial of the short- and long-term effect of psychological treatment of post-partum depression: 2. Impact on the mother-child relationship and child outcome

  • Lynne Murray (a1), Peter J. Cooper (a1), Anji Wilson (a2) and Helena Romaniuk (a3)
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