Things Fall Apart, the Centre Cannot Hold: An Exploration of Depression in Infancy

D'Almeida, Jennifer
Solomon, Margot
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

This dissertation explores the impact of the mother-infant relationship on the development of depression in infancy. The challenges of defining and identifying depression in this age group, covering 0–3 years have been addressed. One of the fundamental reasons being the inability of infants to express affect verbally. The method used is a modified systematic literature review as various studies have been summarized but not statistically compiled or quantified, unlike a traditional systematic literature review. A range of object relations theory including that of Klein, Bion, Winnicott, Balint, Mahler, Stern as well as infant development research and neuroscience form the framework through which the infant has been kept in mind while reviewing the available research on how the mother-infant relationship can contribute to the development of depression in this crucial stage of development. Data on the impact of maternal depression on infant development and progression of depression has been investigated while simultaneously addressing the circular impact of the infant’s temperament on mother-infant interactions. The striking similarities between non-organic failure to thrive in infancy and depression in this age group have been highlighted. Links between attachment and depressive phenomena with an emphasis on avoidant attachment have also been drawn. An in depth discussion using theory and research data has facilitated a deeper understanding of depression in infancy. A synthesis of which reveals that maternal depression and the underlying negative mother-infant interactions, have damaging consequences on the vulnerable infant which may lead to depression in this age group. The need for early intervention through mother-infant psychotherapy has been addressed as if left undetected; depression in infancy can have long lasting consequences at various subsequent stages of development.

Infant depression , Infant development , Mother infant relationship , Maternal depression , Avoidant attachment , Modified systematic literature review
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