Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Laura L. Hayman

Second Advisor

Ling Shi

Third Advisor

Nancy Snidman


Guided by Tronick's Mutual Regulation Model, the purpose of this study was to examine the relations among maternal self-report data related to symptoms of depression, anxiety and parental stress with observations of maternal affect and gaze, in the Face-to-Face Still Face Paradigm at 16, 24, and 43 weeks postpartum. A comparison of observational data with self-report data may reveal discrepancies between maternal subjective experience as reported through questionnaire responses and objective relational behavior, observed in mother-infant dyadic interaction. Affect and gaze are recognized measures of relational behavior reflective of mother-infant communication.

Maternal subjectivity may influence the nature and quality of contingent communication patterns incorporating behavioral measures such as affect and gaze. While self-report questionnaires are a valuable research tool in capturing that subjectivity, observational methods may provide a means of exploring how maternal subjectivity is manifested in the context of relating to the infant. Therefore, the focus of this study was on examining what is perceived by the mother versus what is observed by others in the context of a relational stressor. Through an examination of these processes, this study will lead to a better understanding of the importance of multiple measurements in conducting research concerning the mother-infant relationship and will highlight the complexity of mother-infant dyadic interaction.

Data gathered during an NIH funded study, Stability of Coping and Memory for Social Stress, conducted by Tronick, Snidman, DiCorcia & colleagues (2013) was utilized for the current study. Maternal gaze and affect were coded using the Gaze-Faze coding system using videotaped interaction of mother-infant dyads in the context of the FFSF procedure. Maternal self-report data, based on responses to the Parenting Stress Index (PSI), Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D), and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) were analyzed in relation to the behavioral data.

Results were interpreted in relation to convergences and discrepancies between maternal self-report data and objective behavioral measures in order to gain further insights into research inquiry involving self-assessment in the context of relational phenomena. Findings also have relevance for nursing education, practice, and policies concerning maternal mental health and the well-being of mothers, infants, and families.


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