The feasibility of an objective measure of the parent-child relationship in health visiting practice: assessment of the Maternal Postnatal Attachment Scale [version 2; peer review: 2 approved]

Publication authors

Abigail Dunn, Philippa K Bird, Charlotte Endacott, Tracey Bywater, Joanna Howes, Josie Dickerson


Background: Positive parent infant relationships are key to achieving long term child outcomes. Identifying parents who may need support is difficult because of a lack of robust assessment tools. Working in partnership with health services we piloted the Maternal Postnatal Attachment Scale (MPAS) in a deprived, multi-ethnic urban community in Bradford, UK. The pilot aimed to assess the clinical utility of MPAS to identify need for support: Was it administered to a representative group of women? Is MPAS valid for this population?
Methods: Data were linked to a cohort study in the pilot area (Born in Bradford’s Better Start – BiBBS). Chi Square tests assessed sample representativeness (age, ethnicity, parity, English language, education, deprivation). Exploratory factor analysis explored MPAS’ validity.
Results: 563 women in BiBBS were eligible, 210 (37%) completed MPAS.  No differences were found between completers and non-completers, suggestive of a representative sample. In total, 336 women (including a number of women living in the service area who had not participated in BiBBS) completed MPAS in the pilot.  MPAS had ceiling effects and a satisfactory factor structure could not be identified, indicating poor psychometric properties.
Conclusions: Health visitors were successful in administering MPAS to a representative sample, but the lack of psychometric robustness indicates that MPAS is unsuitable for routine use in this setting. A gap for such a measure remains.