Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

In her shoes: Partner reflective functioning promotes family-level resilience to maternal depression.


Parental depression has significant implications for family functioning, yet much of the literature does not consider family-level dynamics in investigating individual, parenting and child outcomes. In the current study we apply a new index of couple-level support, partner reflective functioning (RF), or the romantic partner's ability to consider how the partner's mental states can guide behavior, to study familial resiliency in the face of prenatal parental depression among first-time parents. We investigate how partner RF buffers the association between prenatal parental depression and outcomes of postnatal parental depression, parenting style, and child effortful control. Maternal and paternal depression were measured in 91 primiparous couples during the sixth month of pregnancy and parental depression, partner RF, parental RF at 6 months postnatally. Outcomes of parental depression, permissive parenting, and children's effortful control were assessed 24 months postnatally. Results indicate that average and high levels of paternal partner (not parental) RF attenuate risk for maternal postnatal depression, maternal permissive parenting, and deficits in child effortful control. Implications are discussed from a family systems approach.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View