Mothers’ and Fathers’ Early Relationship With Their Infant: Similar Yet Temporally Discordant Themes

Linda Bell, RN, PhD Denise St-Cyr Tribble, RN, PhD Céline Goulet, RN, Denise Paul, RN, DEd (deceased 2002) Edward Z. Tronick, PhD

Objective: To examine first-time mothers' and fathers' themes in their relationship with their infant, how these themes change during the first four months postpartum, and similarities and differences in mothers' and fathers' themes.
Participants: Eighteen first-time mother-father couples were separately interviewed at one; six and 16 weeks postpartum.
Data Analysis: Audio-taped, transcribed interviews were analysed using a Grounded Theory approach.
Results: Our findings reveal a common set of themes for mothers and fathers in relation to the infant : 1: Discovery, 2: Physical Proximity, 3: Emotional Closeness, 4: Initiation of Complementary Interactions and 5: Commitment to Love and Care. However, there was a striking lack of concordance between mothers and fathers for these themes at each point in time.
Conclusions: Mothers' and fathers' experience of the early relationship with their infant is unique. Focussing on maternal as well as paternal ways of experiencing the early relationship with their infant sets the way to understanding early developing relationships in the family context.

mother-child relationship, father-child relationship, parent-child relationship, infants

This article has been peer-reviewed. 


Download article