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PSME433 Introduction to Infant Mental Health

Provides an understanding of development and attachment in the context of the perinatal period.

Improving infant outcomes and preventing the onset of psychiatric disorders is an important area of growth. There is an increasing need across all sectors of health care delivery for a better understanding of normal human brain development and how this can be interrupted by adversity. Graduates who have a detailed understanding of brain development and attachment are suitably placed to be able to apply this knowledge in the clinical settings in which they work. These skills are of particular benefit in mental health, obstetric, child education and child protection settings.

Paper title Introduction to Infant Mental Health
Paper code PSME433
Subject Psychological Medicine
EFTS 0.25
Points 30 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,018.75
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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PSMX 433
Limited to
MHealSc, PGCertHealSc, PGDipHealSc
Candidates must possess an appropriate health professional qualification and have at least two years postgraduate clinical experience.

Candidates must possess an appropriate health professional qualification and have at least two years' postgraduate clinical experience. Suitable for professionals who work with women and their infants in the community across a broad range of settings.


Teaching staff

Department of Psychological Medicine 

Paper Structure
PSME 433 will provide individuals with mental health, paediatric and obstetric health experience to gain knowledge of normal human brain development in utero and up to the age of three years. It will also cover the ways in which this development can be interrupted and the importance of attachment during this time. Individuals who take this paper will learn how to apply this knowledge in the clinical settings in which they work to improve infant outcomes. An understanding of care and protection concerns will also be addressed.
Teaching Arrangements

This Distance Learning paper is a combination of remote and in-person teaching.

Two 4-day (Wednesday to Saturday) compulsory workshops in Christchurch. Attendance at both block courses is compulsory.

Students will be provided with a brief "Introductory Notes and Reading Guide". There are some key references, but a bibliography will be provided at the beginning of the paper. We will have a resource folder of key articles and difficult-to-access book chapters.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this paper it is expected that the student will:

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of infant mental health
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the multiple influences on an infant, including the mother-infant relationship, fathers, families and the wider social and cultural context
  • Be able to provide an overview of attachment theory
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the psychological transitions of pregnancy and motherhood
  • Be able to provide an overview of early social, cognitive, emotional and motor development in the infant
  • Demonstrate an understanding of early brain development and how it is influenced by the early infant-parent relationship
  • Be able to assess risk and vulnerability factors for the infant (including prematurity and disability) and parental factors (including mental illness, drug use and adolescent mothers)
  • Understand the potential effects of trauma on the infant, including disorganised attachment
  • Be familiar with a range of mother-infant relationship interaction
  • Be familiar with how to assess an infant and their family
  • Be able to reflect on the infant's inner emotional state
  • Have an understanding of how to assess the relationship between an infant and their primary caregiver
  • Be aware of care and protection issues in relation to infant mental health

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system