Experiences from conception to age six have the most important influence of any time in the life


Video-Feedback Interaction Guidance for Improving Interactions Between Depressed Mothers and their Infants

Summary of the Project

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a major public health issue. Known as “the thief that steals motherhood” since symptoms obstruct a mother’s capacity for understanding and enjoying her baby, PPD affects approximately 1 in 5 moms. Built via “serve and return” interactions (e.g. baby smiles, mom smiles back), sensitive and responsive exchanges are the foundation for healthy child development but are diminished by PPD, resulting in interactions that place children at risk for behavioural and cognitive problems. Infants perceive PPD as stressful; stressors stimulate the brain’s hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA) and trigger stress hormone (cortisol) release, which, in turn, negatively affects developing infant brains by decreasing brain volume. Infants’ critical periods of brain development are vulnerable to long-term effects of cortisol, explaining some of the problematic developmental outcomes observed in children of depressed mothers.

How can we support depressed mothers and their infants? Successfully treating PPD does not always benefit mother-child relationships; however, this research builds on a successful pilot that demonstrated that nurse-guided video feedback improved mother-infant interactions in the context of PPD. By improving interaction quality, depressed mothers may be motivated to engage in more play and, in turn, infants who appear interested and ready to interact are more likely to elicit positive, enjoyable experiences from mothers. Building on the pilot, we will trial the effectiveness of VID-KIDS (Video-Feedback Interaction Guidance for Improving Interactions Between Depressed Mothers and their Infants) on maternal-infant interaction and infant cortisol patterns as well as infant development, maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety, and parenting self-efficacy. If successful, future aims are to 1) integrate VID-KIDS into existing services of Calgary Public Health; and 2) commercialize VID-KIDS for dissemination.

Goals and Objectives

Specific aims are to evaluate the effect of the VID-KIDS intervention among depressed mothers on: 1) M-I interaction quality (primary outcome); 2) infant cortisol patterns, infant development, maternal PPD and anxiety, and parenting stress (secondary outcomes). If successful, future aims are to 1) conduct rigorous cost-benefit analyses; 2) commercialize VID-KIDS for dissemination by NCAST (Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training) Programs; and 3) examine integration of VID-KIDS into existing health services.

Expected results promote health research and advance knowledge in three ways: 1) VID-KIDS shows considerable promise as an effective methods for enhancing M-I relationships of depressed mothers. 2) Through Co-Investigators Oxford and Findlay of NCAST Programs, we have means to commercialize and disseminate VID-KIDS alongside a world leader in evidence-based interventions that promote nurturing environments for young children. 3) Through Co-Investigator McNeil and Collaborator Philley and our integrated knowledge translation methods, we have exceptional levels of community engagement with Calgary Public Health and the opportunity to examine integrating VID-KIDS into existing services.

Members of the Team

Academic Researchers


Principal Investigators:

Dr. Nicole Letourneau
Faculty of Nursing
University of Calgary

Dr. Panagiota Tryphonopoulos
Faculty of Nursing
Brandon University


Gillian Currie, PhD 
Professor, Cumming School of Medicine
University of Calgary

Cindy-Lee Dennis, PhD
Department of Nursing
University of Toronto

Linda Duffett-Leger, PhD
University of Calgary

Denise Findlay, RN
Director of EducationNursing Child Assessment Satellite Training

Dawn Kingston, PhD
University of Calgary

Deborah McNeil, PhD
Alberta Health Services

Monica Oxford, PhD
Unversity of Washington

Shelly Philley, MSA
Alberta Health Services