Maternal stress and depression and the lateralisation of infant cradling

Nadja Nicole Reissland-Burghart, Brian Hopkins, Peter Joseph Benedict Helms, Bob Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Studies show that 65-85% of mothers cradle their infants to the left side of their body, but that this bias changes with maternal mood and stress. The present study examines the hypothesis that maternal stress and depression status will influence the cradling bias differentially.

As part of a larger study on mother-infant interaction, mothers (N = 79) were asked to pick up and briefly hold their children in their arms (44 boys, 35 girls; mean age 7.2 months, range 3 to 14 months).

Results indicated that 86% of mothers who were neither stressed nor depressed cradled to the left and 14% to the right. Comparing the cradling side of stressed mothers with those who were neither stressed nor depressed, more in the former group showed right-sided cradling. In contrast, mothers who were just depressed preferred to cradle to the left.

The lack of a left-sided cradling bias might be due to stress rather than depression experienced by mothers.

Furthermore, this study provides evidence that the state of maternal mental health might be indicated by the side on which they cradle their child preferentially.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-269
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number3
Early online date22 Aug 2007
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


  • lateralisation of holding infants
  • maternal depression
  • maternal stress
  • parent-child interaction
  • postnatal depression
  • side preference
  • Chinese women
  • child
  • bias
  • mood
  • specializations
  • handedness
  • disorders
  • inventory


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