Parent Infant Mental Health

With thanks to Geoff Ferguson, Director of the Parent Infant Centre ( for the following explanation of the Acquarone scales:

The Acquarone Detection Scales for Early Relationships are observational scales that provide a powerful tool for assessing an infant’s capacity to form relationships and a mother’s ability to respond to her infant. The scales have been developed during several decades of clinical practice by Dr Stella Acquarone, who is also the author of several books on infant development and parent infant psychotherapy and Principal of the Parent Infant Clinic.   The Parent Infant Clinic is a private service but does have some subsidised places for families with limited financial resources.

There are two scales, a 25 item scale for observations of the infant and a 13 item scale for observations of the mother. In each case observations are divided into four domains: interpersonal, sensorial, motor and affect. Within each domain observers are asked to note the frequency of certain behaviours. For example, when observing ‘calling’ the observer is looking for ‘facial expressions, noises or gestures that seek to produce an affectionate response from the partner’.

A concern about the infant or the mother might be raised if a particular behaviour was never observed, perhaps showing a difficulty in relating, or was constantly observed, perhaps showing a defensive repetitiveness. The scales can be used to establish a thorough observational benchmark against which later changes can be compared.

Click here to see an example.


One thought on “Parent Infant Mental Health

  1. I had a query from a colleague about the strength of evidence behind the Acquarone scales which I took up with Geoff. His answer is below:

    We have arranged for the scale to be reviewed by researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bedfordshire. They currently have our worked up scales, before and after treatment, for 30 of our cases, along with videos of each cases, again before and after. They will be comparing our completed scales against the videos, using their own observers, and making an assessment of the scale’s utility. We haven’t yet agreed a deadline by which they will have completed their review.

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