Paternal alcohol use and the mother-infant relationship

Rina Das Eiden, Kenneth E. Leonard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to examine the association between paternal alcohol use and the mother-infant relationship. A related goal was to investigate the role of maternal depression and marital satisfaction in moderating this relationship. Subjects were 55 mother-infant dyads (12-24-month-old infants) who were observed in the Strange Situation paradigm to assess infant attachment and in structured play interactions. There were 23 families with heavy drinking fathers and 32 with light drinking fathers. As predicted, infants of heavy drinking fathers were more likely to be insecurely attached compared to infants of light drinking fathers. Contrary to expectations, neither maternal depression nor marital interaction mediated the relationship between paternal alcohol use and mother-infant interactions. However, maternal depression did interact with paternal alcohol use to predict infant attachment security and maternal sensitivity. There was also an interactive effect of marital satisfaction and paternal alcohol use on maternal sensitivity. The results suggest that paternal alcohol use may influence family functioning and the mother-child relationship as early as infancy and suggest one possible pathway toward maladjustment among infants of heavy drinking fathers. However, in addition to investigating the impact of paternal alcohol use on the father-infant relationship, the influence of various familial factors associated with paternal alcohol use need to be more closely examined from a longitudinal perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-323
Number of pages17
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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