Infant Mental Health for the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Infant mental health is an interdisciplinary field comprised of nurses, occupational therapists. pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, teachers, and other professionals.

It has it's theoretical foundations in the work of many:

General Systems Theory
Von Bertalanffy
Classical and Contemporary Psychoanalytic Theory
Theory of Cognitive Development
Infant Mental Health Service Model

Early mental health theorists (e.g., James, Freud, and Watson) did not believe that infants had the capacity to develop mental health problems; rather they believed that infants lacked a mental life (Tronick & Beeghly, 2011). Selma Fraiberg’s work with infants born with visual impairments helped clinicians understand the emotional needs of ‘average’ infants and the kinds of infant mental health problems that can occur (Barlow & Svanberg, 2009). Fraiberg was also one of the first clinicians to describe (and treat) intergenerational patterns of maladaptive parenting (Barlow & Svanberg, 2009). Edward Tronick, who described the rhythmic patterns of interaction between mother and infant, also described what happens (using depressed mothers and their infants as models) when this rhythm is disturbed (Barlow & Svanberg, 2009).

References and Resources:

Fitzgerald, Weatherston, & Mann. (2011). Infant mental health: An interdisciplinary framework for early social and emotional development.  Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 41: 178-182.