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05-04-2019 | Original Paper | Uitgave 6/2019

Journal of Child and Family Studies 6/2019

Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Warm Responsiveness Across the Transition to Parenthood

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 6/2019
Erica A. Mitchell, Amy K. Nuttall, Andrea Wittenborn
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Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Postpartum depression effects up to 12.4% of women and negatively impacts parenting behaviors as early as infancy.


This study examined the associations between maternal depressive symptoms and warm responsiveness from the third trimester of pregnancy through 18 months postpartum. This study assessed a high risk community sample (N = 682) of first-time mothers, ranging in age from 14–36 years old, with a majority identifying as African American and low income. Maternal depressive symptoms were assessed with a self-report measure, the Beck Depression Inventory II, prenatally and at six and 12 months postpartum, while maternal warm responsiveness data were coded via in-home observations with the Landry Observational measure at four, eight, and 18 months postpartum. Latent growth curve modeling was used to assess the associations between depressive symptoms and warm responsiveness over time.


The change in depressive symptoms was −4.92 (SE = 0.39, p < 0.0001) demonstrating that depressive symptoms decreased over time. The change in warm responsiveness was −0.55 (SE = 0.06, p < 0.0001) demonstrating that warm responsiveness also decreased over time. Greater depressive symptoms prenatally were significantly associated with less warm responsiveness at 4 months postpartum (B = −0.03, SE = 0.01, p < 0.01). However, changes in depressive symptoms were not significantly associated with changes in warm responsiveness over time.


It is important to assess for symptoms of depression during pregnancy in order to provide women the opportunity to have access to more resources and support.

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