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Partner and Family Relationships and Postpartum Mental Health in Latina and Non-Hispanic White Mothers


Pregnancy and postpartum are critical periods for child and family development and portend risk for maternal mental health disturbances, with potential for long-term effects of maternal adjustment on child development. Although the predictors and sequelae of maternal postpartum depression and anxiety are often the subject of inquiry, much remains to be learned about the role of the social environment and ethnicity/culture. The current research addresses gaps in our understanding of perinatal partner and family relationship functioning and the influence of these close relationships on postpartum mental health. Additionally, it explores how these associations might differ for Latina and non-Hispanic White women, in light of differences in socio-demographic background, such as income, education, immigration, and acculturation. Study 1 presents data from a multi-site, community-based participatory research project that describe the postpartum partner and family relationship functioning of 308 Latina and 190 non-Hispanic White women and compare associations between relationship functioning and postpartum mental health (depressive symptoms, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and generalized anxiety) across groups. Study 1 also presents multivariate models of socio-demographic variables, acculturation, and partner and family relationships predicting maternal postpartum mental health. Study 2 draws from a longitudinal sample of 81 Latina and 63 non-Hispanic White to examine the ways in which longitudinal changes in partner relationship quality from pregnancy to postpartum are associated with maternal depression in both ethnic groups.

Findings underscore the robust influence of partner and family relationship functioning on maternal postpartum mental health across widely varying levels of socio-demographic background and point to surprising similarity in patterns of association for Latinas and non-Hispanic White women. Variables such as parity, marital status, income, and age repeatedly accounted for more between-group differences in relationship functioning and maternal mental health than did ethnicity. This research adds to our understanding of the psychosocial contributors to postpartum mental health in Latina women and suggests that efforts to reduce strain and improve the quality of partner and family relationships before and after pregnancy could have beneficial influence on postpartum depression and anxiety for both Latinas and NH-Whites.

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