Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Welfare

First Advisor's Name

David Cohen

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Mark Macgowan

Third Advisor's Name

Miriam Potocky

Fourth Advisor's Name

Consuelo Beck-Sague

Fifth Advisor's Name

Ana Garcia


women, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, maternal-fetal attachment, health behaviors, infant mental health

Date of Defense



Background: Mothers with HIV often face personal and environmental risks for poor maternal health behaviors and infant neglect, even when HIV transmission to the infant was prevented. Maternal-fetal attachment (MFA), the pre-birth relationship of a woman with her fetus, may be the precursor to maternal caregiving. Using the strengths perspective in social work, which embeds MFA within a socio-ecological conceptual framework, it is hypothesized that high levels of maternal-fetal attachment may protect mothers and infants against poor maternal health behaviors. Objective: To assess whether MFA together with history of substance use, living marital status, planned pregnancy status, and timing of HIV diagnosis predict three desirable maternal health behaviors (pregnancy care, adherence to prenatal antiretroviral therapy–ART, and infant’s screening clinic care) among pregnant women with HIV/AIDS. Method: Prospective observation and hypothesis-testing multivariate analyses. Over 17 consecutive months, all eligible English- or Spanish-speaking pregnant women with HIV ( n = 110) were approached in the principal obstetric and screening clinics in Miami-Dade County, Florida at 24 weeks’ gestation; 82 agreed to enroll. During three data collection periods from enrollment until 16 weeks after childbirth (range: 16 to 32 weeks), participants reported on socio-demographic and predictor variables, MFA, and pregnancy care. Measures of adherence to ART and infant care were extracted from medical records. Findings: Sociodemographic, pregnancy, and HIV disease characteristics in this sample suggest changes in the makeup of HIV-infected pregnant women parallel to the evolution of the HIV epidemic in the USA over the past two decades. The MFA model predicted maternal health behaviors for pregnancy care (R2 = .37), with MFA, marital living status, and planned pregnancy status independently contributing ( = .50, = .28, = .23, respectively). It did not predict adherence to ART medication or infant care. Relevance: These findings provide the first focused evidence of the protective role of MFA against poor maternal health behaviors among pregnant women with HIV, in the presence of adverse life circumstances. Social desirability biases in some self-report measures may limit the findings. Suggestions are made for orienting future inquiry on maternal health behaviors during childbirth toward relationship and protection.



Included in

Social Work Commons



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