Parenting and mother-infant interactions in the context of maternal postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder: effects of obsessional symptoms and mood

Fiona L. Challacombe, Paul M. Salkovskis, Matthew Woolgar, Esther L. Wilkinson, Julie Read, Rachel Acheson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)
152 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Maternal mental illness is associated with negative effects on the infant and child. Increased attention has been paid to the effects of specific perinatal disorders on parenting and interactions as an important mechanism of influence. OCD can be a debilitating disorder for the sufferer and those around them. Although OCD is a common perinatal illness, no previous studies have characterized parenting and mother infant interactions in detail for mothers with OCD. Methods: 37 mothers with postpartum OCD and a 6 month old infant were compared with 37 community control dyads on a variety of measures of psychological distress and parenting. Observed mother-infant interactions were assessed independently. Results: Obsessions and compulsions were reported in both groups, although they did not cause interference in the control group. Mothers with OCD were troubled by their symptoms for a mean of 9.6 hours/day. Mothers with OCD were less confident, reported more marital distress and less social support than healthy peers and were less likely to be breastfeeding. Infant temperament ratings did not differ. Mothers with OCD were rated as less sensitive in interactions than the comparison group, partly attributable to levels of concurrent depression. Conclusions: Maternal postpartum OCD is a disorder that can affect experiences of parenting and mother-infant interactions although this may not be driven by OCD symptoms. Longitudinal studies are required to assess the trajectory and impact of maternal difficulties as the infant develops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-20
Number of pages10
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Early online date31 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016



  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mother-infant interactions
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Parenting
  • Postpartum

Cite this