The influence of maternal attributions and personality on
recommendations of, and outcome expectancies, for
infant sleep interventions.
D Clin Psy thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Background: Settling and waking difficulties are common among infants and children.
Although there is robust evidence for behavioural approaches to sleep management, a
significant number of parents find these difficult to adhere to. Furthermore, other parents will
actively choose co-sleeping approaches. A number of psychological factors may be
associated with recommendations of, and outcome expectancies for, such interventions.
Methods: First-time mothers of infants aged six to 36 months were recruited from support
groups. A correlational design explored whether mothers’ sleep attributions and personality
(coping style and trait anxiety) related to, and predicted, recommendations of, and outcome
expectancies for, differing sleep management methods. The Modified Illness Perception
Questionnaire (IPQ) and fictional vignettes depicting infants with sleep difficulties were used
to access these attributions. Trait anxiety and coping style were also measured.
Results: The Modified IPQ proved to be an adequate means to access maternal attributions
about the infant sleep difficulties depicted in the fictional vignettes. Maternal attributions of
controllability, external cause, negative consequences and stability were associated with
participants recommending behavioural sleep management approaches. There was also some
evidence that ‘problem focused’ coping and higher levels of trait-anxiety had some influence
on participants’ expectancies of positive outcome for ‘behavioural’ approaches.
Conclusion: Future research should examine the actual choices that mothers make in relation to
their own infant’s sleep. The influence of psychological factors in fathers, or other care-givers,
should also be considered. Gaining further understanding about what factors affect whether a
parent would choose to use a ‘behavioural’ approach, with an expectation of success, may help
healthcare professionals understand why some parents may find adherence particularly difficult.
This may allow them to support parents to use these approaches in clinical treatment.
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