Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon


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

    Improving infant and whānau 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 development (including brain development and social, emotional and relational skills) and how this can be interrupted by adversity. Graduates who have a detailed understanding of 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.

    About this paper

    Paper title Introduction to Infant Mental Health
    Subject Psychological Medicine
    EFTS 0.25
    Points 30 points
    Teaching period Not offered in 2024 (Distance learning)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $3,103.25
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    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 caregivers and their infants in the community across a broad range of settings.


    Teaching staff

    Dr Katherine Donovan, Fiona Will, Mothers and Babies Service, Te Whatu Ora, Waitaha.

    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 held in March and May. 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
    Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy.
    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


    Not offered in 2024

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught through Distance Learning
    Learning management system
    Back to top