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Postpartum Depression, Marital Dysfunction, and Infant Outcome: A Longitudinal Study

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Abstract:

This longitudinal study explores the relationship of postpartum depression (PPD) and marital dysfunction on infant outcomes from birth to 2 1/2 years of age among middle-class, postpartum women. Participants were recruited during the prenatal period. Twelve mothers completed the study throughout a 2 1/2-year period. Questionnaires, semistructured interviews, and observations were used to collect data. Content analysis of the interviews (Morse & Field, 1995) was conducted and thematic patterns were identified. Clinical PPD and marital dysfunction (defined as little or no support or closeness, or verbal, emotional or physical abuse) characterized nearly one in three mothers. Four themes describing the women's postpartum progression were identified: stress, isolation, resentment, and eventual adjustment by creating a new normal. No major developmental delays or behavioral problems were found among the infants. Eight of the 12 mothers who were initially identified as breastfeeding nursed their infants for 6–18 months. Regardless of financial and educational advantages, mothers in the study experienced depression and marital dysfunction. These findings support other studies that confirm the lack of association of PPD with social class or marital status. Childbirth educators and other health care professionals are encouraged to continue providing expectant families with anticipatory education and community resources in order to increase awareness of mental health and marital risks during the postpartum transition.

Keywords: infant outcomes; marital dysfunction; postpartum depression

Document Type: Standard Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1624/105812402X88939

Affiliations: 1: GAYLE ROUX is an assistant professor in the Maternal Child Nursing Department of the School of Nursing at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. She is also a nurse researcher in the VCU Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health Scholars program. 2: CHERYL ANDERSON is an assistant professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Texas at Arlington. She is also an advanced nurse practitioner in maternal child health. 3: CHRIS ROAN worked as a research assistant with Dr. Anderson. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, with a master's degree in social work.

Publication date: October 1, 2002

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