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external supervisor

Dr M Thomas Kishore, Additional Professor of Clinical Psychology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, India.


Theory of self-efficacy relates to a person’s self-belief in their ability to undertake and execute certain tasks with confidence leading to an expected outcome. It is used in behavioural sciences to assess people’s motivation to continue physical activity, health professional’s level of confidence in delivering care, parents’ ability to care for their children, etc. According to a model proposed by Coleman and Karraker (1997), for a mother to perceive herself as efficacious in parenting, she must have the following:

  • A range of responses to typical child-rearing situations (e.g., methods of soothing a crying infant, ways to manage a toddler’s disruptive behaviour).
  • Confidence in her ability to carry out the above as part of caring for the child.
  • Beliefs that her child will respond to her efforts.
  • Beliefs that significant others will support her efforts (example, perceived support from spouse and other family members).

Some studies show that maternal self-efficacy mediates the effect of mother’s mental health on infant temperament and wellbeing, while others suggest that maternal self-efficacy could be inversely associated with postnatal depression. A better understanding of the role of maternal self-efficacy could enable us to improve both maternal and infant outcomes.

Aim: To examine the relationships between maternal self-efficacy and maternal and infant wellbeing and outcomes.

Research questions:

  1. Is maternal self-efficacy associated with postnatal mental health problems?
  2. Does maternal self-efficacy have an association with infant’s temperament, feeding and physical health?
  3. Does maternal self-efficacy mediate the effect of perinatal mental health on postpartum wellbeing of mothers?
  4. Does maternal self-efficacy mediate the effect of perinatal mental health on infant wellbeing?


The project is expected to encompass the following in terms of research methodology:

  • A systematic review of the effect of maternal self-efficacy on maternal and infant outcomes.
  • A qualitative study to assess perceived self-efficacy of mothers with and without clinically diagnosed perinatal mental health problems.
  • A quantitative study to 
  1. Measure maternal self-efficacy in a cohort of mothers with and without clinically diagnosed perinatal mental health problems using a context relevant tool.
  2. Examine the effect of maternal self-efficacy on mother’s postpartum mental health and infant outcomes (temperament, feeding and physical health).
  3. Undertake mediation analysis to delineate the causal relationships between maternal self-efficacy, perinatal mental health, mother’s postnatal wellbeing, and infant outcomes.

The student will be able to undertake training and develop skills in qualitative and quantitative research methods, and mediation analysis. They will also be able to develop skills in primary data collection and undertaking research in a low-and-middle income country setting.


Fieldwork will be undertaken in India through the MaatHRI platform. The project will be part of an ongoing larger project so a questionnaire for the quantitative component could be easily included in the planned and funded cohort study. The student will be required to conduct the qualitative work. 

prospective candidate

This project will be suitable for students with training and experience in epidemiology, statistics, and child or clinical psychology. Having interest, training or experience in mental health research is desirable.