Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Mother and child, Children with disabilities -- Family relationships, Stress (Psychology)



Physical Description

4, xvii, 472 leaves 28 cm.


The purpose of this study was to compare the attachment process of mothers with and without a handicapped infant and to examine the effects of stress and the social support network on this process. The research was a prospective, longitudinal study comparing two different mother-infant groups on the dependent variable, maternal attachment. The independent variables handicap-nonhandicap, maternal characteristics, perinatal events, and other stressors were analyzed for their effect on maternal attachment. The social support network was examined to determine its direct and indirect effect on the attachment process. The sample was composed of 36 mother-infant dyads. Data were gathered in the home at one, six, and twelve months postpartum using interviews, questionnaires and observation. Upon completion of data collection, comparisons were made between those mothers having a handicapped infant (n = 15) and those having a nonhandicapped infant (n = 21). Quantitative and qualitative techniques were employed to answer the study questions. The results indicate that there were significant differences in maternal attachment at one month postpartum with the mothers having a handicapped infant exhibiting fewer attachment behaviors. When the effects of prenatal support were partialled out, the handicap-nonhandicap variable no longer correlated significantly with maternal attachment suggesting that support was buffering the effects of having a handicapped infant. The results of the qualitative analysis also indicated that mothers having a handicapped infant were having problems with attachment. The support variables, affect and affirmation, were positively associated with maternal attachment for those mothers having a handicapped infant, while aid support was negatively correlated with maternal attachment. The qualitative analysis found that the mothers having a handicapped infant gained new support members and that more professionals became part of their support systems. In spite of gaining new support members, these mothers felt that they had less aid. At one year postpartum, mothers with a handicapped infant were experiencing more stressors than mothers with a nonhandicapped infant. Furthermore, stressors were negatively correlated with maternal attachment.


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Portland State University. School of Urban and Public Affairs.

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