Maternal Postpartum Emotional Distress and Preterm Social Withdrawal in the Bedouin Culture

Shuaa Assal-Zrike, Kyla Marks, Naama Atzaba-Poria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aimed to test a serial mediation model proposing that prematurity would be related to changes in maternal emotional distress, which in turn would be related to the mother–child (M-C) interaction, which would ultimately be related to infant social withdrawal. Bedouin mothers and their preterm (n = 48) and full-term (n = 57) infants participated in this study. Mothers’ mean age was 27.67 years. In addition, 39.4% of the mothers were primiparas and 60.6% were multiparas. Infants and their mothers were recruited shortly after birth (T1) in the maternity ward or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Soroka Medical Center and were followed up at ages 6 months (T2) and 12 months (T3). Findings indicated that HIGHER levels of maternal emotional distress during the second half of the first year postpartum and LOWER levels of mother–child interaction, were associated with HIGHER levels of infant social withdrawal at T3. Furthermore, the overall indirect effect suggested that HIGHER levels of maternal nonhostility was a main variable mediating the link between prematurity and LOW levels of infant social withdrawal. Our findings provide evidence that changes in maternal emotional distress during the first year are related to lower infant social withdrawal. Moreover, mothers of premature infants showed higher levels of nonhostility when interacting with their premature infants. These findings highlight the importance of gaining a better understanding of maternal behaviors. Specifically, our study provides important information for researchers and clinicians on a possible mechanism leading to early socioemotional difficulties of premature infants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-918
Number of pages12
JournalResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2022


  • Bedouin society
  • Infant social withdrawal
  • Maternal emotional distress
  • Mother–child interaction
  • Postpartum depression
  • Prematurity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Maternal Postpartum Emotional Distress and Preterm Social Withdrawal in the Bedouin Culture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this